Federico Bongiorno

Federico Bongiorno

Department of Philosophy
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

PhD topic: delusion formation
Supervisor: Lisa Bortolotti (University of Birmingham), Ema Sullivan-Bissett (University of Birmingham), and Craig French (University of Nottingham)
PhD Philosophy


  • 2015:  MA, Philosophy, Durham University, Durham, UK (Distinction, GPA: 79%).
  • 2014:  MA, Philosophy, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy, 110 cum laude (Distinction).
  • 2012:  BA, Philosophy, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy, 110 cum laude (Hons, First class).


Before coming to Birmingham, I took a BA and MA in philosophy at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University of Milan, and a second MA in philosophy at Durham University. I was a Visiting Scholar at Yale in Spring 2019.


University of Birmingham: Teaching assistant, and examining 2016/2018: 1st Year Undergraduate Problems of Philosophy.


I work primarily in the philosophy of mind (esp. philosophy of psychiatry and philosophical psychology) and cognitive science. My thesis is set out in the format of a collection of self-standing essays. Throughout these essays, I try to illuminate a number of controversies surrounding the nature of delusion formation.

In the essay “The role of unconscious inference in models of delusion formation” (with Lisa Bortolotti, in: Timothy Chan and Anders Nes (eds.) Inference and Consciousness, Routledge, forthcoming 2019), I take issue with the view, prevalent in the literature, that Bayesian accounts of inference in delusions are best characterised as versions of explanationism. Two competing accounts aim to shed light on the formation of delusions: according to explanationism, the delusional belief is offered as an explanation for anomalous experience; according to the endorsement theory, the delusional belief is an acknowledgement that the anomalous experience is veridical. I argue that the centrepiece of Bayesian accounts – that delusions are arrived at through unconscious Bayesian inferences – does not fit neatly under either explanationism or the endorsement theory.

In the essay “Is the Capgras Delusion an Endorsement of Experience?” (Mind & Language, 25 June 2019), I flesh out a new endorsement approach to the Capgras delusion, the belief that a loved one has been replaced by an impostor. More specifically, I propose that the experience of those who have the delusion is made up of two distinct elements: (i) a literal-perceptual state in which the person is represented literally as their loved one, and (ii) a metaphorical-perceptual state in which the same person is represented metaphorically as an impostor. I suggest that the delusion results because the metaphorical representation is treated as literal and endorsed as such.

In the essay “Spinozan Doxasticism about Delusions”, I consider how the Spinozan theory of belief fixation offers resources for avoiding objections usually made against doxasticism, the view that supports the belief status of delusions. Doxasticism has been criticised on the grounds that delusions fail to meet certain standards which we expect beliefs to conform to; for example, they are unresponsive to evidence, weakly behaviour guiding, and inferentially encapsulated. If belief fixation is Spinozan, I argue, these features of delusions can be interpreted naturally in doxastic terms. In the essay “Delusions, Explanations, and the Predictive Mind” (with Phil Corlett), I examine a recent critique of predictive processing theories of delusions, according to which such theories suffer two limitations: they only partially explain why an agent believes something delusional as opposed to nothing at all or something else; they fail to explain how delusional hypotheses are generated in the first place. I argue that these concerns are overstated, inasmuch as they can be met from within the predictive processing framework.

In the essay “Delusions as Justified Perceptual Beliefs” (in progress), I ask whether delusions formed via endorsement processes have any measure of epistemic justification derived from perceptual experience (and if so what kind). I argue that they do only if and to the extent that we accept a dogmatist view of perceptual justification.

Other activities

Professional activities

  • Co-organizer Philosophy in Progress Postgraduate Conference, University of Nottingham, January 2019.
  • Member, Imperfect Cognitions Research Network.
  • Member of the centre PERSONA (Laboratory for Research in Phenomenology and Sciences of the Person, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University), Milan.
  • CEF – Ethics Committee in End-of-Life Care – Milan, Italy – Intern. (2012/2013).

Scholarships and awards

  • 2019: Michael K. O’Rourke Best PhD Publication Award (£400) from the College of Arts and Law, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 2019: Student Development Fund from AHRC (£1145.58), Yale University, USA.
  • 2018-2019: Full AHRC funding for PhD (£18.678), University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 2017: College of Arts and Law Doctoral Scholarship (£11.000), University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 2015: Cash prize for securing the highest mark in the Master’s program (£80), Durham University, UK.
  • 2012: ERASMUS Studentship (€1.800), Albert Ludwigs Universität, Freiburg, Germany.  

Selected presentations

  • 14 March 2019. Making sense of an endorsement model of the Capgras delusion. Belief, Learning, and Memory Lab. Yale University, USA.
  • 6 November 2018. Is the Capgras delusion an endorsement of experience? Belief, Imagination, and Delusions conference, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 24 May 2018: Are delusions justified perceptual beliefs? M3C Research Festival, Maple House, Birmingham.
  • 14 August 2017: Can you see someone as an imposter? 25th Annual Meeting of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, UK.
  • 14 July 2017: Can you see someone as an imposter? Annual conference of the British Society of Philosophy of Science, University of Edinburgh, UK.
  • 28 June 2017: Can you see someone as an imposter? 44th Annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.
  • 18 May 2017: Capgras delusion. An epistemological account, International Permanent Workshop ‘Phenomenology Today', Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan [Invited].


Peer-reviewed publications

  • Bongiorno, F. "Is the Capgras delusion an endorsement of experience?" in Mind and Language. 2019.

Book chapters

  • Bongiorno, F., and Bortolotti, L. "The role of unconscious inference in models of delusion formation" in A., Nes and T., Chan. (ed.) Inference and Consciousness, Routledge. In Press. 2019.

Digital scholarship

Posts for the blog Imperfect Cognitions (http: imperfectcognitions.blogspot.co.uk).

  • 7 September 2017: Report from the 43rd meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.
  • 31 August 2017: Cognitive Phenomenology: An Interview with Peter Carruthers.