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 biomedical ethics.

Feedback and office hours

I am working from home right now. Contact me by email if you want an appointment or are interested in PhD supervision.


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 a textbook, Introduction to the philosophy of science (Polity Press, 2008); 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 monograph. 

I edited three volumes, Philosophy and Happiness (Palgrave, 2009); with Matthew Broome, Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspectives (OUP, 2009) 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 LI Philosophy of Mental Health and LM Philosophy and Mental Health. I supervise Philosophical Projects, Masters Dissertations, and PhD theses.

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise postgraduate students in the following areas:

Philosophy of Psychology (belief, delusion, confabulation, memory, rationality)

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

Currently I am supervising the following students:

Rosa Ritunnano
Aneela Khan
Kathleen Murphies-Hollies
Chloe Bamboulis
Jane Kisbey
Rafael Ambriz Gonzalez
Jessica Sutherland
Lucy Prior
Joseph Houlders
Markella Grigoriou
Federico Bongiorno
Valeria Motta
Noorit Larsen
Eugenia Lancellotta

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.

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 the Medical Research Council 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, and Michael Larkin (Psychology, Aston University) was also 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

  • 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 the Ethics Science and Innovation book series, Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Topoi.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.
  • On the Advisory Board of Philosophical Inquiries (philinq).
  • 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


Miyazono, K & Bortolotti, L 2021, Philosophy of Psychology: An Introduction. 1 edn, Polity Press. <>

Bortolotti, L 2020, The Epistemic Innocence of Irrational Beliefs. Oxford University Press.


Bortolotti, L & Belvederi Murri, M 2021, 'Can there be delusions of pain?', Rivista internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 167-172.

Ichino, A & Bortolotti, L 2021, 'Complottismi, negazionismi, e altre distorsioni cognitive: una sfida all'incrocio ta psicologia e filosofia', Syzetesis. <>

Bortolotti, L, Ichino, A & Mameli, G 2021, 'Conspiracy theories and delusions', Reti Saperi Linguaggi.

Bortolotti, L & Bamboulis, C 2021, 'The epistemic relevance of cognitive behavioural therapy', Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology.

Houlders, JW, Bortolotti, L & Broome, MR 2021, 'Threats to epistemic agency in young people with unusual experiences and beliefs', Synthese.

Lancellotta, E & Bortolotti, L 2020, 'Delusions in the two-factor theory: pathological or adaptive?', European Journal of Analytic Philosophy.

Bortolotti, L 2020, 'Doctors without 'Disorders'', Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, vol. 94, no. 1, pp. 163-184.,

Motta, V & Bortolotti, L 2020, 'Solitude as a positive experience: empowerment and agency', Metodo. International Studies in Phenomenology .

Lancellotta, E & Bortolotti, L 2019, 'Are clinical delusions adaptive?', Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, vol. 10, no. 5, e1502.

Bortolotti, L & Sullivan-Bissett, E 2019, 'Is choice blindness a case of self-ignorance?', Synthese.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Bortolotti, L & Stammers, S 2020, Philosophy as a Means of Empowerment and Self-Advocacy. in Philosophy by Women: 22 Philosophers Reflect on Philosophy and Its Value. Routledge.

Bortolotti, L & Puddifoot, K 2019, Philosophy bias and stigma. in D Bubbio & J Malpas (eds), Why Philosophy?. De Gruyter, pp. 51-64.

Review article

Grigoriou, M, Upthegrove, R & Bortolotti, L 2019, 'Instrumental rationality and suicide in schizophrenia: a case for rational suicide?', Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 45, no. 12, pp. 802-805.

View all publications in research portal


Philosophy of psychiatry and psychology; rationality; mental illness; delusions; disorders.

Recent articles discussing my research:

Press releases:

Media experience

Traditional media:

  • Quoted in the Guardian on a piece on benefits optimism, August 2019.
  • Invited as a guest of BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast Show to talk about optimism and longevity, August 2019.
  • Invited as a guest on a radio programme by BBC World Service, The Forum, Unintended Consequences, November 2014.
  • Quoted on the front page of the Telegraph on a piece about forced treatment for an incapacitated patient, May 2010.
  • Interviewed by John Elder for the Sunday Age, Melbourne, about the strive for perfection, September 2009.
  • Author of a piece on the question “Should human reproductive cloning be allowed?” by BBC Focus Magazine, June 2009.
  • Participated in a debate on animal rights on animal rights in the New Statesman, February 2008.
  • Invited to join the expert panel for animal ethics and animal cognition in BBC1 The Big Questions, October 2007.


Podcasts and video clips:


Running the Imperfect Cognitions blog.

Guest blogger on 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.

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


  • Philosophy of psychiatry and psychology
  • Rationality
  • Mental illness
  • Mental Health and Rationality 

Policy experience

Policy briefs

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