andrewleeke's Shortform

by andrewleeke21st Nov 20202 comments
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How would a therapist diagnose an EA mindset?

I wonder why I’m drawn to EA — particularly in terms of my personality. For example, I have a tendency to justify things (sometimes myself) and endorsing EA principles might simply be an extension of this. EA principles allow me to justify my choice of career, lifestyle, values, diet, etc. 

Does anyone else see EA as an extension of their deep desire to justify things? Since justification is a defensive process, I wonder whether this has any relation to self-esteem or self-worth.

And, if EA doesn't relate to a desire to justify things, is it simply another form of social signalling? Except we're signalling to philosophers and computer scientists, who have unusual values (thus the unusual signals).

How would a therapist diagnose the EA mindset? That’s to say: if I began therapy tomorrow, and told my therapist, ‘I feel obliged to donate 10% of my income to charity. I feel obliged to work for an organisation trying to solve the world’s most pressing problems. I feel obliged to do both of these because I think that they could minimise the needless suffering of others more than any other course of action I can think of'. What conclusions would they draw about my personality?

You might find it helpful to look at this ethnography of an EA group. Also relevant is this analysis of the Big Five personality traits of respondents to the Rethink Charity community survey. It has statistical flaws, but one takeaway is that most EAs are high in openness. Finally, there's this Global Optimum Podcast episode on the personality of EAs.

Justification and signalling explanations don't seem especially compelling to me because in some sense, everything is justification and signaling. Also, I'm not sure if you're hinting at this, but it's unlikely that you'll be diagnosed with a mental illness just for being drawn to / believing in EA, unless it significantly impedes your everyday functioning. Since I'm not a therapist, I don't think I can comment further on what a therapist would say.