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Ema Sullivan-Bissett
University of Birmingham
  1. Implicit Bias, Confabulation, and Epistemic Innocence.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2014 - Consciousness and Cognition 33:548-560.
    In this paper I explore the nature of confabulatory explanations of action guided by implicit bias. I claim that such explanations can have significant epistemic benefits in spite of their obvious epistemic costs, and that such benefits are not otherwise obtainable by the subject at the time at which the explanation is offered. I start by outlining the kinds of cases I have in mind, before characterising the phenomenon of confabulation by focusing on a few common features. Then I introduce (...)
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  2.  40
    Biased by Our Imaginings.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2019 - Mind and Language 34 (5):627-647.
    I propose a new model of implicit bias, according to which implicit biases are constituted by unconscious imaginings. I begin by endorsing a principle of parsimony when confronted with unfamiliar phenomena. I introduce implicit bias in terms congenial to what most philosophers and psychologists have said about their nature in the literature so far, before moving to a discussion of the doxastic model of implicit bias and objections to it. I then introduce unconscious imagination and argue that appeal to it (...)
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  3.  72
    Biological Function and Epistemic Normativity.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (1):94-110.
    I give a biological account of epistemic normativity. My account explains the sense in which it is true that belief is subject to a standard of correctness, and reduces epistemic norms to there being doxastic strategies which guide how best to meet that standard. Additionally, I give an explanation of the mistakes we make in our epistemic discourse, understood as either taking epistemic properties and norms to be sui generis and irreducible, and/or as failing to recognize the reductive base of (...)
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  4.  34
    The transparent failure of norms to keep up standards of belief.Ema Sullivan-Bissett & Paul Noordhof - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1213-1227.
    We argue that the most plausible characterisation of the norm of truth—it is permissible to believe that p if and only if p is true—is unable to explain Transparency in doxastic deliberation, a task for which it is claimed to be equipped. In addition, the failure of the norm to do this work undermines the most plausible account of how the norm guides belief formation at all. Those attracted to normativism about belief for its perceived explanatory credentials had better look (...)
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  5.  64
    Explaining Doxastic Transparency: Aim, Norm, or Function?Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2018 - Synthese 195 (8):3453-3476.
    I argue that explanations of doxastic transparency which go via an appeal to an aim or norm of belief are problematic. I offer a new explanation which appeals to a biological function of our mechanisms for belief production. I begin by characterizing the phenomenon, and then move to the teleological and normative accounts of belief, advertised by their proponents as able to give an explanation of it. I argue that, at the very least, both accounts face serious difficulties in this (...)
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  6.  58
    The Epistemic Innocence of Clinical Memory Distortions.Lisa Bortolotti & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2018 - Mind and Language 33 (3):263-279.
    In some neuropsychological disorders memory distortions seemingly fill gaps in people’s knowledge about their past, where people’s self-image, history, and prospects are often enhanced. False beliefs about the past compromise both people’s capacity to construct a reliable autobiography and their trustworthiness as communicators. However, such beliefs contribute to people’s sense of competence and self-confidence, increasing psychological wellbeing. Here we consider both psychological benefits and epistemic costs, and argue that distorting the past is likely to also have epistemic benefits that cannot (...)
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  7.  18
    Unimpaired Abduction to Alien Abduction: Lessons on Delusion Formation.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2020 - Philosophical Psychology 33 (5):679-704.
    An examination of alien abduction belief can inform how we ought to approach constructing explanations of monothematic delusion formation. I argue that the formation and maintenance of alien abduct...
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  8.  91
    A Defence of Owens' Exclusivity Objection to Beliefs Having Aims.Ema Sullivan-Bissett & Paul Noordhof - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 163 (2):453-457.
    In this paper we argue that Steglich-Petersen’s response to Owens’ Exclusivity Objection does not work. Our first point is that the examples Steglich-Petersen uses to demonstrate his argument do not work because they employ an undefended conception of the truth aim not shared by his target (and officially eschewed by Steglich-Petersen himself). Secondly we will make the point that deliberating over whether to form a belief about p is not part of the belief forming process. When an agent enters into (...)
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  9.  69
    Malfunction Defended.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2017 - Synthese 194 (7):2501-2522.
    Historical accounts of biological function are thought to have, as a point in their favour, their being able to accommodate malfunction. Recently, this has been brought into doubt by Paul Sheldon Davies’s argument for the claim that both selected malfunction (that of the selected functions account) and weak etiological malfunction (that of the weak etiological account), are impossible. In this paper I suggest that in light of Davies’s objection, historical accounts of biological function need to be adjusted to accommodate malfunction. (...)
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  10. Another Defence of Owen’s Exclusivity Objection to Beliefs Having Aims.Ema Sullivan-Bissett & Paul Noordhof - 2017 - Logos and Episteme 8 (1):147-153.
    David Owens objected to the truth-aim account of belief on the grounds that the putative aim of belief does not meet a necessary condition on aims, namely, that aims can be weighed against other aims. If the putative aim of belief cannot be weighed, then belief does not have an aim after all. Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen responded to this objection by appeal to other deliberative contexts in which the aim could be weighed, and we argued that this response to Owens failed (...)
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  11.  38
    Aims and Exclusivity.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2017 - European Journal of Philosophy 25 (3):721-731.
    If belief has an aim by being a intentional activity, then it ought to be the case that the aim of belief can be weighed against other aims one might have. However, this is not so with the putative truth aim of belief: from the first-person perspective, one can only be motivated by truth considerations in deliberation over what to believe. From this perspective then, the aim cannot be weighed. This problem is captured by David Owens's Exclusivity Objection to belief (...)
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  12.  56
    Monothematic Delusion: A Case of Innocence From Experience.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2018 - Philosophical Psychology 31 (6):920-947.
    ABSTRACTEmpiricists about monothematic delusion formation agree that anomalous experience is a factor in the formation of these attitudes, but disagree markedly on which further factors need to be specified. I argue that epistemic innocence may be a unifying feature of monothematic delusions, insofar as a judgment of epistemic innocence to this class of attitudes is one that opposing empiricist accounts can make. The notion of epistemic innocence allows us to tell a richer story when investigating the epistemic status of monothematic (...)
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  13.  64
    How Can False or Irrational Beliefs Be Useful?Lisa Bortolotti & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (sup1):1-3.
  14.  29
    The Clinical Significance of Anomalous Experience in the Explanation of Monothematic Delusions.Paul Noordhof & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):10277-10309.
    Monothematic delusions involve a single theme, and often occur in the absence of a more general delusional belief system. They are cognitively atypical insofar as they are said to be held in the absence of evidence, are resistant to correction, and have bizarre contents. Empiricism about delusions has it that anomalous experience is causally implicated in their formation, whilst rationalism has it that delusions result from top down malfunctions from which anomalous experiences can follow. Within empiricism, two approaches to the (...)
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  15. Better No Longer to Be.Ema Sullivan-Bissett & Rafe Mcgregor - 2012 - South African Journal of Philosophy 31 (1):55-68.
    David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a harm, and that – for all of us unfortunate enough to have come into existence – it would be better had we never come to be. We contend that if one accepts Benatar’s arguments for the asymmetry between the presence and absence of pleasure and pain, and the poor quality of life, one must also accept that suicide is preferable to continued existence, and that his view therefore implies both anti-natalism (...)
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  16. Fictional Persuasion, Transparency, and the Aim of Belief.Ema Sullivan-Bissett & Lisa Bortolotti - 2017 - In E. Sullivan-Bissett (ed.), Art and Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 153-73.
    In this chapter we argue that some beliefs present a problem for the truth-aim teleological account of belief, according to which it is constitutive of belief that it is aimed at truth. We draw on empirical literature which shows that subjects form beliefs about the real world when they read fictional narratives, even when those narratives are presented as fiction, and subjects are warned that the narratives may contain falsehoods. We consider Nishi Shah’s teleologist’s dilemma and a response to it (...)
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  17.  12
    Debunking Doxastic Transparency.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2022 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 18 (1):(A3)5-24.
    In this paper I consider the project of offering an evolutionary debunking explanation for transparency in doxastic deliberation. I examine Nicole Dular and Nikki Fortier’s (2021) attempt at such a project. I suggest that their account faces a dilemma. On the one horn, their explanation of transparency involves casting our mechanisms for belief formation as solely concerned with truth. I argue that this is explanatorily inadequate when we take a wider view of our belief formation practices. I show that Dular (...)
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  18.  9
    The Everyday Irrationality of Monothematic Delusion.Paul Noordhof & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - forthcoming - In Paul Henne & Samuel Murray (eds.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Action. Routledge.
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  19.  5
    Better to Return Whence We Came.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2022 - Journal of Value Inquiry 56 (1):85-100.
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  20. What Makes a Belief Delusional?Lisa Bortolotti, Ema Sullivan-Bissett & Rachel Gunn - 2016 - In I. McCarthy, K. Sellevold & O. Smith (eds.), Cognitive Confusions. Legenda. pp. 37-51.
    In philosophy, psychiatry, and cognitive science, definitions of clinical delusions are not based on the mechanisms responsible for the formation of delusions. Some of the defining features of delusions are epistemic and focus on whether delusions are true, justified, or rational, as in the definition of delusions as fixed beliefs that are badly supported by evidence). Other defining features of delusions are psychological and they focus on whether delusions are harmful, as in the definition of delusions as beliefs that disrupt (...)
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  21. Another Failed Refutation of Scepticism.Tom Stoneham & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2017 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 36 (2):19-30.
    Jessica Wilson has recently offered a more sophisticated version of the self-defeat objection to Cartesian scepicism. She argues that the assertion of Cartesian scepticism results in an unstable vicious regress. The way out of the regress is to not engage with the Cartesian sceptic at all, to stop the regress before it starts, at the warranted assertion that the external world exists. We offer three reasons why this objection fails: first, the sceptic need not accept Wilson’s characterization of the sceptical (...)
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  22.  78
    Review of David Benatar, The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions. [REVIEW]Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2018 - American Journal of Bioethics 18 (7):4-6.
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  23.  9
    Is Choice Blindness a Case of Self-Ignorance?Ema Sullivan-Bissett & Lisa Bortolotti - 2019 - Synthese 198 (6):5437-5454.
    When subject to the choice-blindness effect, an agent gives reasons for making choice B, moments after making the alternative choice A. Choice blindness has been studied in a variety of contexts, from consumer choice and aesthetic judgement to moral and political attitudes. The pervasiveness and robustness of the effect is regarded as powerful evidence of self-ignorance. Here we compare two interpretations of choice blindness. On the choice error interpretation, when the agent gives reasons she is in fact wrong about what (...)
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  24.  49
    Costs and Benefits of Imperfect Cognitions.Lisa Bortolotti & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 33:487-489.
    Introduction to a special issue of Consciousness and Cognition on the costs and benefits of imperfect cognitions.
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  25.  40
    The Aim of Belief, Edited by Timothy Chan. [REVIEW]Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2015 - Mind 124 (496):1258-1264.
    Review of Timothy Chan's (ed.) The Aim of Belief.
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  26.  46
    Nikolaj Nottelmann (Ed.), New Essays on Belief: Constitution, Content and Structure, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, Xii + 258 Pp., GBP 55 (Hardback), ISBN 9781137026514. [REVIEW]Lisa Bortolotti & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2014 - Dialectica 68 (1):141-146.
  27.  8
    Art and Belief.Ema Sullivan-Bissett, Helen Bradley & Paul Noordhof (eds.) - 2017 - Oxford University Press.
    Art and Belief presents new work at the intersection of philosophy of mind and philosophy of art. Topics include the cognitive contributions artworks can make, the phenomenon of fictional persuasion, and the nature of aesthetic testimony, and the relation between belief and truth in our experience of art.
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  28. Moral and Legal Implications of the Continuity Between Delusional and Non-Delusional Beliefs.Ema Sullivan-Bissett, Lisa Bortolotti, Matthew Broome & Matteo Mameli - 2016 - In Geert Keil, Lara Keuck & Rico Hauswald (eds.), Vagueness in Psychiatry. Oxford University Press. pp. 191-210.
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  29.  21
    The Role of Emotions and Values in Competence.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2016 - Journal of Medical Ethics (6):379-380.
  30.  17
    Review of New Essays on Belief: Constitution, Content and Structure by Nikolaj Nottelmann. [REVIEW]Lisa Bortolotti & Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2014 - Dialectica 68 (1):141-146.
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  31.  13
    Changing Approaches to Blindsight: Relevant, but Not Decisive: Reply to Foley.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2012 - Philosophical Writings:56-60.