Friedrich Nietzsche: First Impressions

Ezra James
4 min readFeb 9, 2020
Painting of Nietzsche by Edvard Munch

Throughout the course of my three year academic journey, the life and works of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche have been a continuous subject of study and interpretation. His influence goes beyond just philosophy, reaching the limits of mainstream popular culture much in the same lines of fascination and admiration of historical figures such as Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Goth, and John Cleese. Films and television programs like The Sopranos, Seinfeld, Parasite, and The Lighthouse among others owe much of their themes and explorations to the works of the 19th Century German philologist-turned-philosopher.

If we expand further, we may discover he may very well be the catalyst for what would ultimately become the nihilistic outlook the modern world has come to view reality. From this perspective, it is quite apt to say Nietzsche developed the foundation of what would later become postmodernism and deconstructionism.

However, it is rather unwise to categorize Nietzsche as just the precursor of these moments. His body of work demonstrates he was intensely interested in touching upon all that can be encompassed as art. This central theme found in most of his work can be used to distinguish it from the works of other philosophers. Some have used this distinction to assert how this in turn makes him a mere theorist undeserving of the title of philosopher. I look at this extreme with much pity; to question Nietzsche as a philosopher not only misses the mark but completely denigrates the immense density and complexity behind his most fundamental ideas.

Reading Nietzsche is not an easy task. This is mainly due to the difficulty of translating his texts and unpublished manuscripts. The horrible smears and distortions of his manuscripts at the hands of his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, were also of influence to the lack of respect paid to his work. Over time, the translations were improved and the world began to view him on a much different light.

The best English translators of his books are Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. Kaufmann’s translations can be found in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, which have been my primary source. Most of the selections are incomplete, with the exception of The Birth of Tragedy. Despite the missing chapters, the book is a perfect…

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Ezra James

Absurd journalist and essayist from the outskirts of Shambhala.