•  899
    In this paper I consider some issues concerning cognitive enhancements and the ethics of enhancing in reproduction and parenting. I argue that there are moral reasons to enhance the cognitive capacities of the children one has, or of the children one is going to have, and that these enhancements should not be seen as an alternative to pursuing important changes in society that might also improve one’s own and one’s children’s life. It has been argued that an emphasis on enhancing cognitive capac…Read more
  •  853
    In Defence of Modest Doxasticism about Delusions
    Neuroethics 5 (1): 39-53. 2012.
    Here I reply to the main points raised by the commentators on the arguments put forward in my Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs (OUP, 2009). My response is aimed at defending a modest doxastic account of clinical delusions, and is articulated in three sections. First, I consider the view that delusions are inbetween perceptual and doxastic states, defended by Jacob Hohwy and Vivek Rajan, and the view that delusions are failed attempts at believing or not-quitebeliefs, proposed by Eric Schwi…Read more
  •  742
    The Epistemic Benefits of Reason Giving
    Theory and Psychology 19 (5): 1-22. 2009.
    There is an apparent tension in current accounts of the relationship between reason giving and self knowledge. On the one hand, philosophers like Richard Moran (2001) claim that deliberation and justification can give rise to first-person authority over the attitudes that subjects form or defend on the basis of what they take to be their best reasons. On the other hand, the psychological evidence on the introspection effects and the literature on elusive reasons suggest that engaging in explicit…Read more
  •  675
    Disability, enhancement and the harm -benefit continuum
    with John Harris
    In John R. Spencer & Antje Du Bois-Pedain (eds.), Freedom and Responsibility in Reproductive Choice, Hart Publishers. 2006.
    Suppose that you are soon to be a parent and you learn that there are some simple measures that you can take to make sure that your child will be healthy. In particular, suppose that by following the doctor’s advice, you can prevent your child from having a disability, you can make your child immune from a number of dangerous diseases and you can even enhance its future intelligence. All that is required for this to happen is that you (or your partner) comply with lifestyle and dietary requireme…Read more
  •  640
    Animal rights, animal minds, and human mindreading
    with Matteo Mameli
    Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (2): 84-89. 2006.
    Do non-human animals have rights? The answer to this question depends on whether animals have morally relevant mental properties. Mindreading is the human activity of ascribing mental states to other organisms. Current knowledge about the evolution and cognitive structure of mindreading indicates that human ascriptions of mental states to non-human animals are very inaccurate. The accuracy of human mindreading can be improved with the help of scientific studies of animal minds. But the scientifi…Read more
  •  617
    In psychiatry some disorders of cognition are distinguished from instances of normal cognitive functioning and from other disorders in virtue of their surface features rather than in virtue of the underlying mechanisms responsible for their occurrence. Aetiological considerations often cannot play a significant classificatory and diagnostic role, because there is no sufficient knowledge or consensus about the causal history of many psychiatric disorders. Moreover, it is not always possible to un…Read more
  •  524
    Rationality, diagnosis and patient autonomy
    with Jillian Craigie
    Oxford Handbook Psychiatric Ethics. 2014.
    In this chapter, our focus is the role played by notions of rationality in the diagnosis of mental disorders, and in the practice of overriding patient autonomy in psychiatry. We describe and evaluate different hypotheses concerning the relationship between rationality and diagnosis, raising questions about what features underpin psychiatric categories. These questions reinforce widely held concerns about the use of diagnosis as a justification for overriding autonomy, which have motivated a shi…Read more
  •  522
    Costs and Benefits of Realism and Optimism
    with Magdalena Antrobus
    Current Opinion in Psychiatry 28 (2): 194-198. 2015.
    Purpose of review: What is the relationship between rationality and mental health? By considering the psychological literature on depressive realism and unrealistic optimism it was hypothesized that, in the context of judgments about the self, accurate cognitions are psychologically maladaptive and inaccurate cognitions are psychologically adaptive. Recent studies recommend being cautious in drawing any general conclusion about style of thinking and mental health. Recent findings: Recent invest…Read more
  •  448
    The Epistemic Innocence of Motivated Delusions
    Consciousness and Cognition (33): 490-499. 2015.
    Delusions are defined as irrational beliefs that compromise good functioning. However, in the empirical literature, delusions have been found to have some psychological benefits. One proposal is that some delusions defuse negative emotions and protect one from low self-esteem by allowing motivational influences on belief formation. In this paper I focus on delusions that have been construed as playing a defensive function (motivated delusions) and argue that some of their psychological benefits …Read more
  •  429
    The Ethics of Delusional Belief
    Erkenntnis 81 (2): 275-296. 2016.
    In this paper we address the ethics of adopting delusional beliefs and we apply consequentialist and deontological considerations to the epistemic evaluation of delusions. Delusions are characterised by their epistemic shortcomings and they are often defined as false and irrational beliefs. Despite this, when agents are overwhelmed by negative emotions due to the effects of trauma or previous adversities, or when they are subject to anxiety and stress as a result of hypersalient experience, the …Read more
  •  425
    Immortality without boredom
    with Yujin Nagasawa
    Ratio 22 (3): 261-277. 2009.
    In this paper we address Bernard Williams' argument for the undesirability of immortality. Williams argues that unavoidable and pervasive boredom would characterise the immortal life of an individual with unchanging categorical desires. We resist this conclusion on the basis of the distinction between habitual and situational boredom and a psychologically realistic account of significant factors in the formation of boredom. We conclude that Williams has offered no persuasive argument for the nec…Read more
  •  368
    Taking the long view: an emerging framework for translational psychiatric science
    with Bill Fulford and Matthew Broome
    World Psychiatry 13 (2): 110-117. 2014.
    Understood in their historical context, current debates about psychiatric classification, prompted by the publication of the DSM-5, open up new opportunities for improved translational research in psychiatry. In this paper, we draw lessons for translational research from three time slices of 20th century psychiatry. From the first time slice, 1913 and the publication of Jaspers’ General Psychopathology, the lesson is that translational research in psychiatry requires a pluralistic approach encom…Read more
  •  315
    Agency, life extension, and the meaning of life
    The Monist 93 (1): 38-56. 2010.
    Contemporary philosophers and bioethicists argue that life extension is bad for the individual. According to the agency objection to life extension, being constrained as an agent adds to the meaningfulness of human life. Life extension removes constraints, and thus it deprives life of meaning. In the paper, I concede that constrained agency contributes to the meaningfulness of human life, but reject the agency objection to life extension in its current form. Even in an extended life, decision-ma…Read more
  •  276
    Delusions and the background of rationality
    Mind and Language 20 (2): 189-208. 2005.
    I argue that some cases of delusions show the inadequacy of those theories of interpretation that rely on a necessary rationality constraint on belief ascription. In particular I challenge the view that irrational beliefs can be ascribed only against a general background of rationality. Subjects affected by delusions seem to be genuine believers and their behaviour can be successfully explained in intentional terms, but they do not meet those criteria that according to Davidson (1985a) need to b…Read more
  •  266
    Depressive Delusions
    with Magdalena Antrobus
    Filosofia Unisinos 17 (2): 192-201. 2016.
    In this paper we have two main aims. First, we present an account of mood-congruent delusions in depression (hereafter, depressive delusions). We propose that depressive delusions constitute acknowledgements of self-related beliefs acquired as a result of a negatively biased learning process. Second, we argue that depressive delusions have the potential for psychological and epistemic benefits despite their obvious epistemic and psychological costs. We suggest that depressive delusions play an i…Read more
  •  263
    Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness: A Case Study
    Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (2): 179-187. 2010.
    Various authors have argued that progress in the neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric sciences might threaten the commonsense understanding of how the mind generates behavior, and, as a consequence, it might also threaten the commonsense ways of attributing moral responsibility, if not the very notion of moral responsibility. In the case of actions that result in undesirable outcomes, the commonsense conception—which is reflected in sophisticated ways in the legal conception—tells us that there a…Read more
  •  257
    Fictional persuasion, transparency, and the aim of belief
    In E. Sullivan-Bissett (ed.), Art and Belief, Oxford University Press. pp. 153-73. 2017.
    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…Read more
  •  257
    A role for ownership and authorship in the analysis of thought insertion
    with Matthew Broome
    Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 8 (2): 205-224. 2009.
    Philosophers are interested in the phenomenon of thought insertion because it challenges the common assumption that one can ascribe to oneself the thoughts that one can access first-personally. In the standard philosophical analysis of thought insertion, the subject owns the ‘inserted’ thought but lacks a sense of agency towards it. In this paper we want to provide an alternative analysis of the condition, according to which subjects typically lack both ownership and authorship of the ‘inserted’…Read more
  •  233
    What makes a belief delusional?
    with Ema Sullivan-Bissett and Rachel Gunn
    In I. McCarthy, K. Sellevold & O. Smith (eds.), Cognitive Confusions, Legenda. pp. 37-51. 2016.
    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 …Read more
  •  228
    Philosophy and Happiness (edited book)
    Palgrave MacMillan. 2009.
    Philosophy and Happiness addresses the need to situate any meaningful discourse about happiness in a wider context of human interests, capacities and circumstances. How is happiness manifested and expressed? Can there be any happiness if no worthy life projects are pursued? How is happiness affected by relationships, illness, or cultural variants? Can it be reduced to preference satisfaction? Is it a temporary feeling or a persistent way of being? Is reflection conducive to happiness? Is mortali…Read more
  •  222
    Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs
    Oxford University Press. 2009.
    Delusions are a common symptom of schizophrenia and dementia. Though most English dictionaries define a delusion as a false opinion or belief, there is currently a lively debate about whether delusions are really beliefs and indeed, whether they are even irrational. The book is an interdisciplinary exploration of the nature of delusions. It brings together the psychological literature on the aetiology and the behavioural manifestations of delusions, and the philosophical literature on belief asc…Read more
  •  215
    Deception in psychology : Moral costs and benefits of unsought self-knowledge
    with Matteo Mameli
    Accountability in Research 13 259-275. 2006.
    Is it ethical to deceive the individuals who participate in psychological experiments for methodological reasons? We argue against an absolute ban on the use of deception in psychological research. The potential benefits of many psychological experiments involving deception consist in allowing individuals and society to gain morally significant self-knowledge that they could not otherwise gain. Research participants gain individual self-knowledge which can help them improve their autonomous deci…Read more
  •  187
    Stem cell research, personhood and sentience
    with John Harris
    Reproductive Biomedicine Online 10 68-75. 2005.
    In this paper the permissibility of stem cell research on early human embryos is defended. It is argued that, in order to have moral status, an individual must have an interest in its own wellbeing. Sentience is a prerequisite for having an interest in avoiding pain, and personhood is a prerequisite for having an interest in the continuation of one's own existence. Early human embryos are not sentient and therefore they are not recipients of direct moral consideration. Early human embryos do not…Read more
  •  185
    To what extent do self-deception and delusion overlap? In this paper we argue that both self-deception and delusions can be understood in folk-psychological terms. “Motivated” delusions, just like self-deception, can be described as beliefs driven by personal interests. If self-deception can be understood folk-psychologically because of its motivational component, so can motivated delusions. Non-motivated delusions also fit the folk-psychological notion of belief, since they can be described as …Read more
  •  178
    The right not to know: the case of psychiatric disorders
    with Heather Widdows
    Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (11): 673-676. 2011.
    This paper will consider the right not to know in the context of psychiatric disorders. It will outline the arguments for and against acquiring knowledge about the results of genetic testing for conditions such as breast cancer and Huntington’s disease, and examine whether similar considerations apply to disclosing to clients the results of genetic testing for psychiatric disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The right not to know will also be examined in the context of the diagn…Read more
  •  164
    Does reflection lead to wise choices?
    Philosophical Explorations 14 (3): 297-313. 2011.
    Does conscious reflection lead to good decision-making? Whereas engaging in reflection is traditionally thought to be the best way to make wise choices, recent psychological evidence undermines the role of reflection in lay and expert judgement. The literature suggests that thinking about reasons does not improve the choices people make, and that experts do not engage in reflection, but base their judgements on intuition, often shaped by extensive previous experience. Can we square the tradition…Read more
  •  160
    Intentionality without rationality
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 105 (3): 385-392. 2005.
    It is often taken for granted in standard theories of interpretation that there cannot be intentionality without rationality. According to the background argument, a system can be interpreted as having irrational beliefs only against a general background of rationality. Starting from the widespread assumption that delusions can be reasonably described as irrational beliefs, I argue here that the background argument fails to account for their intentional description
  •  157
    Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspectives (edited book)
    with Matthew Broome
    Oxford University Press. 2009.
    Neuroscience has long had an impact on the field of psychiatry, and over the last two decades, with the advent of cognitive neuroscience and functional neuroimaging, that influence has been most pronounced. However, many question whether psychopathology can be understood by relying on neuroscience alone, and highlight some of the perceived limits to the way in which neuroscience informs psychiatry. Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience is a philosophical analysis of the role of neuroscience in th…Read more
  •  141
    What does Fido believe?
    Think 7 (19): 7-15. 2008.
    Lisa Bortolotti introduces the arguments about whether dogs can have beliefs