This is another spark thrown off by Larval Subjects’ meme post (see previous post for link).
Some time ago another blog colleague posted on a now-deleted blog about the generosity of famous intellectuals. He has found them to be gracious, open and helpful, even early in his career when his status was low. I’ve been mulling this. I can’t say my own experience in this respect has been entirely consistent – this colleague is himself becoming noted for selective graciousness – but in general I can confirm that many of the bigshots I’ve run across are actually pretty cuddly.
Well, sometimes that old guy wants to give you candy because he’s just super nice, and sometimes it’s because he’s got some more back at his house plus other things he’d like to show you. Levi’s argument about memes is that their top priority is to reproduce themselves, and they’re looking for whatever ways to do that they can find. What makes intellectuals famous is that they are the source or vectors of memes. They are accordingly on the make, the more so the more successful they are (or want to be).
The generosity of famous intellectuals is no different than the generosity of the old guy with candy or that fellow who winks and buys you a drink from across the bar. If he looks good to you, go right ahead. But it’s not generosity yet until you turn down the bedroom proposal and he still wants to talk to you. It’s how you treat people who aren’t means to your ends that counts.