I kind of think about Hegel the way you might think about astrology.  People have different reactions to astrology.  Most people are vaguely aware of it, but only vaguely.  Then there are a few people who become deeply, deeply fascinated with it, or immersed in it.  Some people declare themselves experts on the subject.  A lot of these people are hucksters.  They can say whatever they want, and then slap the label "astrology" on their own opinions, intuitions, proclamations, or vague utterances.  And it can be very difficult to distinguish hucksters who make it up as they're going along from people who have done any real research on the subject - and this can become more and more difficult, the vaguer and more confusing people's statements are.  So there is a perverse incentive to write the vaguest and most confusing, or simply the most beside-the-point stuff, because it makes it more difficult for someone else to prove that you don't know what you're talking about.

All of the above can cause some people to angrily reject it.  There are people who shout until they're blue in the face about how much they don't believe it, how they regard it as TOTAL BULLSHIT.  These people often seem to be even more obsessed with it than its practitioners.  Some people regard it not only as inaccurate but actually pernicious - as though belief in astrology were responsible for much of the suffering in the world.  They regard believers as sheep, being led by a conspiracy of power hungry con artists who are bent on world domination.  They point out that categorizing people according to the symbolic structure of astrology only divides people and leads people to see each other as essentialist sterotypical cartoons and not as fully realized, flesh and blood human beings. They see themselves as liberators who will free your mind from these evil delusions.  Some go so far as to demonize astrologers, to say that astrology is the product of demonic influence.  Others don't see it that way, but given their fanatical anti-astrological stance, they might as well.

Many people go through a phase of being interested in astrology, perhaps when they're young.  (I went the other way - I went through a phase, in my youth, of being fanatically anti-astrology.)  Most people eventually "grow out of" astrology, but that doesn't necessarily mean they stop believing in it.  It doesn't even mean they ever "believed" in it.  They may remain open to it, as a possibility, as a way of organizing their experience, as a way of shifting their perspective.   And they may regard an occasional shift of perspective as helpful, for gaining some critical distance on their own lives or their overall picture of society.  

Astrology has some characteristics in common with Tarot, the I Ching, tea leaves, and other similar games that I like to call "randomizers" - in the cases of Tarot and I Ching, they may employ some more or less randomizing elements, such as drawing cards, flipping coins, casting off lots of yarrow stalks and so on.  As human beings experience things, we tend to reinforce our neural pathways and our patterns of thought tend to get more and more fixed and hardened and more difficult to see our way out of.  Sometimes it can be an aid to creativity to have our preconceptions scrambled a little bit by being forced to reinterpret the meaning of our experienced through the filter of a randomized symbolic structure.  Even if you regard Hegel's philosophy as nothing but meaningless word salad, it might function as a randomizer that could provide recontextualization and thus an opportunity for lateral thinking - thus preventing us from falling into dogmatic monologic.  In particular, the primary danger of materialism is that it will ossify into a rigidly schematic monism (thus, incidentally, surreptitiously rendering it into a kind of disguised idealism).  Consulting Hegelian philosophy as a nice brain-scrambler from time to time can help keep materialism dialectical - that is, it can keep it flexible, adaptable, adroit, and lively, and prevent it from collapsing into a stale, dead, husk.  (By the way, here is my simple - or perhaps simplistic - definition of dialectical materialism: dialectical materialism is distinguished from non-dialectical materialism by the incorporation of many perspectives on the material world, in dialogue with each other.  As soon as one voice, one perspective, one symbol system gains total hegemony and excludes all the others, materialism has become non-dialectical.)

Psychoanalysis is similar to both Hegel and astrology in this regard.

Of course, I think of Hegel's philosophy as more than just word salad.  There is method to his madness.  But it's not less than word salad - and I like word salad!  (I wonder if James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" could be used in a similar way.)  And if Hegel's philosophy really were simply random and meaningless, that would be a major accomplishment in its own right.  Producing genuine randomness is one of the most difficult things to do in the entire universe.

To those who are not eating enough word salad, I say: eat your veggies!


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