One of Nietzsche’s core principles was based on the parable of the Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit: Camel-Lion-Child. The basic idea was that an individual lives duty-bound (the camel), only to come to question the purpose of duty forcing him to tear down the traditions that bound him to those duties (the lion), which opens up the possibility of seeking their full potential in a world without any traditions or boundaries (the child).
However, modern psychological research has shown repeatedly that the Paradox of Choice is a very real phenomenon in humans, which counterintuitively makes us less happy. When we have too many choices, we merely become confused and stressed, and more prone to making poor decisions. The key to reaching our full potential is knowing where the lines are, the boundaries. Filtering and screening out bad options, leaving less to choose from, but higher quality.
Thus it is not the lion that should follow the camel, but the fox. Clever and cunning, a fox’s approach. It is not recklessly tearing down all the boundaries and traditions (or “slaying the dragon” in Nietzsche’s terms), but carefully evaluating those boundaries based upon their own merit. Not all that is old is wrong.
Indeed, there is a reason traditions came about in the first place … they had utility.
And most of that utility was about establishing boundaries. For when we are free to do anything, we lack the focus, safety, and security to excel. Boundaries prevent other people from murdering us. They permit us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, without someone else later stealing them. To build communities and cities, without fear that later immigrants will move in and exploit our efforts. To focus on our strengths and opportunities, without being paralyzed by the Paradox of Choice.
All of these things give us the incentive, the freedom, to invest in ourselves and our communities. A freedom which derives from boundaries. That freedom, and the boundaries they derive from, are a hallmark of classic liberalism and liberal societies.
Recklessly tearing down boundaries and tradition, as Nietzsche argued (e.g. God is dead) is an affront to liberal principles. It ignores the realities of human nature, and the boundaries necessary to allow individuals to flourish in a liberal society. Boundaries which are often rooted in traditions.
It is not the Camel-Lion-Child paradox, but the Camel-Fox-Child, that is necessary to preserve the liberal ideal.
That is not to say traditions should never change or be discarded. Rather, that those changes should be the result of careful consideration of the consequences. Wise choices, over reckless deconstructionism.
It is no surprise that later post-Modernists like Sarte as well as a whole range of “rebels” from Fascists to Feminists, Progressives, and other cultural Marxists seized upon Nietzsche’s ideas. Nietzsche was a popular figure among those in the 20th and 21st century who would seek to tear down the old with little consideration for the consequences, or with perhaps unfettered optimism in their own utopian ideas.
Their problem, much like Nietzsche’s, was a poor understanding of where freedom comes from, the purpose of traditions, the Paradox of Choice, and the basic human nature behind individual endeavor. They were all the “lion” in various forms from Nietzsche’s paradigm. They destroyed, or at least sought to. And much like Nietzsche went crazy in the end (suffering a mental breakdown in 1889 and spending the last decade of his life insane), the result has arguably been a sort of “societal madness” … the ever-present growth of Outrage Culture.
It could be contended that Nietzsche tried to mitigate that reckless deconstructionism, in a way, with his concept of Ubermensch (a.k.a. the Nietzsche “superman” or overman). The idea was that only certain individuals would be able to transcend the normal rules of human behavior and society. Of course, Nietzsche failed to foresee the rise of rampant Narcissism and Egotism in Western society in the latter half of the 20th century and 21st century. In essence, we ALL now think we are Ubermensch. Special snowflakes, who feel entitled to cross any line. One might also suggest it was Nietzsche’s ideas themselves, through modern Feminists and Progressives and cultural Marxists, that actually brought about the narcissistic phenomena … unintended consequences perhaps, the seeds we sow.
Too many lions, not enough foxes. It is knowing where the line is, that sets us free as individuals to reach our highest potential. Freedom is a thing that derives from boundaries.