Effective Altruism, Scrupulosity, and OCD: A Conversation with Holly Elmore

The inspiration for this podcast was a blog post by Holly Elmore on her Scrupulosity lightning talk at an Effective Altruism conference in Boston. Here is a link to this blog post. Holly is a grad student in the Haig Group at the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a senior advisor of Harvard University Effective Altruism student group. For those of you who don’t know, effective altruism is a philosophy that attempts to answer the question of how we can do the most good with our resources. Holly’s blog post discusses the possibility that when effective altruism and scrupulosity is taken too far, it could possibly fall into an obsessive-compulsive framework. With my background in both OCD and effective altruism, I thought it would be interesting to have an in-depth discussion of this possibility. Holly and I met at an effective altruism conference in San Francisco a few years ago and I’ve enjoyed following her blog since then. Holly and I have some similar intuitions about the limitations of applying EA philosophy completely consistently and we go into some detail on why each of us feel that way. We also discuss vegan extremism, social media perils, our experiences on 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats, and the importance of internally validating yourself. I hope you enjoy it.

Website links:

Holly’s original blog post: https://mhollyelmoreblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/02/scrupulosity-my-eagxboston-2019-lightning-talk

Holly’s post, “Kicking an addiction to self-loathing”: https://mhollyelmoreblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/14/kicking-an-addiction-to-self-loathing

Effective Altruism: https://www.effectivealtruism.org

Dr. Steven Phillipson on Responsibility and OCD: https://www.ocdonline.com/guilt-beyond-reasonable-doubt

The OCD Stories podcast: https://theocdstories.com