Dr Ema Sullivan-Bissett M.A. (York), PhD (York)


Research Fellow

Department of Philosophy


Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


I am currently Research Fellow on the Epistemic Innocence project at the University of Birmingham. My research interests are in the philosophy of mind and psychology, specifically belief and its connection to truth, self-deception, and delusion. I am also interested in biological approaches to what are characteristically thought to be normative questions in philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics.


  • B.A. in Philosophy (York, 2009)
  • M.A. in Philosophy (York, 2010)
  • PhD in Philosophy (York, 2014).


My PhD concerned the connection between belief and truth, which I take to be indicated by three features: transparency to truth considerations in doxastic deliberation, our inability to believe at will, and epistemic normativity. I claim that these three features of belief are explained by my biological function account of belief. On this account, these features come out as contingent (as opposed to constitutive) features of belief, grounded in the biological histories of our mechanisms for belief-production. More broadly, and arising out of my PhD research on belief, I have interests in self-deception and delusion, and the proper characterization of these phenomena.

With regard to the Epistemic Innocence project, I am currently thinking about the epistemic innocence of delusional beliefs, and the formation thereof. I think that at least some delusions are epistemically innocent, and that the one-stage account of delusional belief formation ought to be the default position for understanding delusion. Further, I think that epistemic innocence is easier to get at if one adopts a one-stage account of delusional belief formation. I would like to defend the claim that the mutual supportedness of the one-stage account and the epistemic innocence of delusions gives us substantial theoretical reason to accept both.


  • Sullivan-Bissett, Ema and Noordhof, Paul 2013: ‘A Defence of Owens’ Exclusivity Objection to Beliefs Having Aims’. Philosophical Studies, Vol. 163, No. 2, pp. 453–457.

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