Professor Lisa Bortolotti MA (London), BPhil (Oxon), PhD (ANU)

Photograph of Professor Lisa Bortolotti

Department of Philosophy
Professor of Philosophy

Contact details

Room 223, European Research Institute
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a philosopher of the cognitive sciences, focusing on the philosophy of psychology and psychiatry. I am also interested in some issues in biomedical ethics. I am the Editor in Chief of Philosophical Psychology.

My main interests lie in the strengths and limitations of human cognition and agency, investigating faulty reasoning and irrational beliefs, delusions, confabulations, distorted memories, poor knowledge of the self, unreliable self narratives, self deception, inconsistencies between attitudes and behaviour, unrealistic optimism, and other positive illusions. I am also interested in how health, wellbeing, rationality, and agency interact.

Feedback and office hours

I receive students on Tuesdays 12-1pm (online).


I have a Laurea in Filosofia (summa cum laude) from the University of Bologna (1997), an MA in Philosophy (with Distinction) from the University of London (1998), a BPhil from Oxford (2000), and a PhD in Philosophy from the Australian National University in Canberra (2004). 


Before joining the Philosophy Department at the University of Birmingham as a Lecturer in 2005, I was Honorary Lecturer in Bioethics in the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy at the University of Manchester and Research Associate on the EC-funded EU-RECA (on the concept of research and the ethical regulation of research activities) coordinated by Professor John Harris. Since at Birmingham, my research and teaching has focused on the philosophy of the cognitive sciences (rationality and belief).

I am the author of two textbooks, Introduction to the philosophy of science (Polity, 2008) and Philosophy of Psychology: An Introduction (Polity, 2021, with Kengo Miyazono); two monographs, Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs (OUP, 2009) and The Epistemic Innocence of Irrational Beliefs (OUP, 2020); and a key concepts book, Irrationality (Polity, 2014). In 2011 I was awarded the American Philosophical Association Book Prize for the 2009 monograph on delusions. 

I edited three volumes, Philosophy and Happiness (Palgrave, 2009); Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspectives (OUP, 2009, with Matthew Broome) which was listed among the Guardian Books of the Year in 2009; and Delusions in Context (Palgrave, 2018) with contributions by Philip Corlett, Richard Bentall, Rachel Upthegrove, and myself. Delusions in Context is available open access. 


I teach the LM Philosophy and Mental Health module for Philosophy, for on-campus and distance-learning students, with Francesco Antilici.

I teach the LM Philosophy and Ethics of Mental Health and Wellbeing module for Psychology, with Matthew Broome.

I supervise Philosophical Projects, Masters Dissertations, and PhD theses.

I convene with Ema Sullivan-Bissett a Belief and Delusion reading group for staff and students, meeting fortnightly.

I also convene the Women in Philosophy seminar, a group open to members of staff and graduate students.

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise postgraduate students in the following areas:

Philosophy of Psychology (belief, delusion, confabulation, distorted memory, rationality, cognitive biases, agency)

Philosophy of Psychiatry (classification and diagnosis, psychiatric ethics, notion of mental disorder, youth mental health).

Currently I am supervising the following students:

Rosa Ritunnano
Aneela Khan
Kathleen Murphy-Hollies
Chloe Bamboulis
Jane Kisbey
Rafael Ambriz Gonzalez
Jessica Sutherland
Lucy Prior
Joseph Houlders
Noorit Larsen
Lou Teyssedou
Aisha Qadoos

The following students have successfully completed:

Andrew Wright (The Problems of Pain), viva passed in February 2015.
Andrew Woodhall (Addressing Anthropocentrism in Nonhuman Ethics), viva passed in December 2016.
Isaura Peddis (Empathy as an Emotion), viva passed in September 2017.
Rachel Gunn (Delusions and Affective Framing), viva passed in November 2017.
Magdalena Antrobus (Epistemic and Psychological Benefits of Depression), viva passed in November 2017.
Ben Costello (Moral Sequencing and Intervening to Prevent Harm), viva passed in December 2018.
Alex Miller Tate ('Radical' Cognitive Science and Philosophical Psychopathology: The case of depression), viva passed in February 2019.
Matilde Aliffi (Epistemic Rationality of Emotions: A new defence), viva passed in April 2019.
Markella Grigoriou (Blunted affect, social withdrawal and suicide in Schizophrenia), viva passed in November 2020.
Federico Bongiorno (Strange Beliefs: Essays on delusion formation), viva passed in November 2020.
Valeria Motta (Being Present in Times of Absence: A Philosophical and Empirical Enquiry on Loneliness and Solitude), viva passed in December 2020.
Eugenia Lancellotta (Can delusions be adaptive? The case of OCD), viva passed in October 2021.

Find out more - our PhD Philosophy  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research topics include: theories of belief ascription, rationality debate in philosophy and cognitive science, rationality and self knowledge in psychopathology, delusions and confabulation, psychological realism, autonomy and personhood, demarcation between science and pseudoscience, research ethics, reproductive ethics, animal rights, death and immortality. More recently, I got interested in theories of delusion formation, in the relationship between having a diagnosis of mental illness and being morally responsible for one's actions, in the phenomena of positive illusions and unrealistic optimism, and in the notion of disorder in the philosophy of medicine.

I am currently working on a project funded by UKRI on Agency, Justice, and Social Identity in Youth Mental Health, led by Rose McCabe at City University.

For 5 years (2014-2019), I led a project called PERFECT,  Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts, funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant (EUR 1.900.065). The project allowed me to build a team of post-doctoral researchers and PhD students. Michael Larkin (Psychology, Aston University) was involved as a co-investigator. PERFECT featured in the Birmingham Heroes campaign on research that matters in November 2015 (on mental illness) and November 2017 (on youth mental health).

From September 2015 for 12 months I was on a non-residential fellowship (20%, $76,299) for a project entitled "Costs and Benefits of Optimism" as part of a funding initiative on Hope and Optimism supported by the Templeton Foundation and managed by Cornell University and the University of Notre Dame.

From September 2013 for twelve months I was funded by an AHRC Fellowship to pursue a project entitled "The Epistemic Benefits of Imperfect Cognitions". 

In 2012 I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Small Grant in the Ethics & Society stream on Moral Responsibility and Psychopathology which funded a workshop on the topic in March 2013. Co-applicants were Matthew Broome (University of Oxford) and Matteo Mameli (King's College London).

From January to June 2011 I was funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Expense Grant for a project on Rationality and Sanity. 

In 2009 I was awarded AHRC research leave for a project on the nature of clinical delusions, and an Endeavour Research Fellowship (offered by the Department of Education, Employment and the Workplace Relations of the Australian Government) to work with Professor Max Coltheart and other members of the Belief Formation group at Macquarie University.

Other activities

Professional service

Current roles:

  • Editor of Philosophical Psychology.
  • Series Editor for International Perspectives on Philosophy and Psychiatry, Oxford University Press. 
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Wellbeing.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of European Journal of Analytic Philosophy.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Topoi.
  • On the Advisory Board of Philosophical Inquiries (philinq).

Previous roles:

  • Associate Editor for Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (2013-2016).
  • E-letter Editor for Journal of Medical Ethics (2005-2010).


I am a member of the Higher Education Academy, the British Philosophical Association, the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and the European Society for Analytic Philosophy. 

From 2010 to 2013 I was committee member for the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, and from 2010 to 2015 I was on the Executive of the Mind Association.


Recent publications


Bortolotti, L 2023, Why Delusions Matter. Why Philosophy Matters, 1st edn, Bloomsbury Publishing.


Bortolotti, L 2023, 'Come evitare le ingiustizie epistemiche nell’assistenza sanitaria: il caso del Pronto Soccorso psichiatrico nel Regno Unito', Mefisto, vol. 7, no. 1.

Bergen, C, Bortolotti, L, Temple, RK, Fadashe, C, Lee, C, Lim, M & McCabe, R 2023, 'Implying implausibility and undermining versus accepting peoples’ experiences of suicidal ideation and self-harm in Emergency Department psychosocial assessments', Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol. 14, 1197512.

Bortolotti, L 2023, 'Is it pathological to believe in conspiracy theories?', Transcultural Psychiatry.

Bortolotti, L & Murphy-Hollies, K 2023, 'Why We Should Be Curious about Each Other', Philosophies, vol. 8, no. 4, 71.

Bortolotti, L & Murphy-Hollies, K 2022, 'Agency-First Epistemology of Psychedelics', Philosophy and the Mind Sciences, vol. 3, 5.

Bortolotti, L 2022, 'Are delusions pathological beliefs?', Asian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 1, no. 1, 31.

Bergen, C, Bortolotti, L, Tallent, K, Broome, M, Larkin, M, Temple, R, Fadashe, C, Lee, C, Lim, MC & Mccabe, R 2022, 'Communication in youth mental health clinical encounters: Introducing the agential stance', Theory and Psychology, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 1-24.

Bortolotti, L & Murphy-hollies, K 2022, 'Exceptionalism at the Time of covid-19: Where Nationalism Meets Irrationality', Danish Yearbook of Philosophy, pp. 1-22.

Bortolotti, L & Ambriz Gonzalez, R 2022, 'Putting scientific realism into perspective', Interdisciplinary Science Reviews.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Grassi, L & Bortolotti, L 2023, Delusions across and beyond Diagnoses. in A Falcato & J Gonçalves (eds), The Philosophy and Psychology of Delusions. 1 edn, Routledge.

Jefferson, A & Bortolotti, L 2023, On the moral psychology of the pandemic agent. in E Barbosa (ed.), Moral Challenges in a Pandemic Age. 1st edn, Routledge.

Bortolotti, L & Ambriz Gonzalez, R 2023, Realismo / antirealismo e psichiatria. in R Campaner & C Gabbani (eds), Realismo e Antirealismo nelle Scienze: Un percorso multidisciplinare. Studi Superiori, vol. 1381, Carocci Editore. <>


Bortolotti, L, Chiu, L & Saling, LL 2023, 'A Journey into the Mind', Philosophical Psychology, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 701-703.

Bortolotti, L 2023, 'Challenges and achievements for Philosophical Psychology', Philosophical Psychology, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 1-3.

View all publications in research portal


Areas of expertise:

  • Topics in the philosophy of psychiatry such as mental illness and clinical delusions.
  • Topics in the philosophy of psychology such as rationality and conspiracy theories.

Press releases:

Media experience

Traditional media

Articles based on or citing my research:

Audio-visual resources

Podcasts and videos based on my research:


Founding editor of the Imperfect Cognitions blog.

Guest blogger for Scientia Salon, Psychiatric Ethics, Philosoph-herSplintered Mind, Brains, Neuroethics & Law, Saving Humans, the Wellcome Trust blog, the AHRC Science in Culture blog and many more.


  • Philosophy of psychiatry and psychology
  • Rationality
  • Mental health and mental illness

Policy experience

Policy briefs

  • On 26 March 2020, Mental capacity assessments (Mental Elf, with Sophie Stammers)
  • On 10 October 2017, Is loneliness a pathology? (Birmingham Perspective, with Valeria Motta).
  • On 14 January 2016, Mental health care is still awaiting its revolution (The Birmingham Brief).
  • On 5 November 2015, "Us and Them" no longer: mental health concerns us all (The Birmingham Brief).
  • On 20 November 2013, Lessons from the Breivik case (The Birmingham Perspective).
  • On 8 February 2013, Making sense of psychiatry (The Birmingham Brief).

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office