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As the above suggests, Nietzsche did not conceive language as merely a system of incorporeal signs. Lange, Hartmann, and Schopenhauer had taught him to view it as conditioned by its production by the body, and the philosopher was supported in this belief by the general scientific views of his era. Emden reminds the reader that mid-nineteenth-century biologists engineered a multitude of experiments designed to explore the relationship of neurophysiology and mental phenomena. The best-known example, Broca’s work on aphasia, had demonstrated a linkage between the use of language and a specific area of the brain. Nietzsche kept abreast of such research, although he was reluctant to indulge in the facile reductionism common at the time. As Emden frequently points out, he struggled to account for the intertwining of language and body without collapsing either into the other.

For most of his book Emden views Nietzsche in the light of two kinds of resources: the ancients, whose work he taught for nearly a decade, and the natural scientists who made such important discoveries during his own era. Only in the final chapter is a move made from these two sources to address a third. If Nietzsche indeed refused to reduce language to a function of physiology, he was nonetheless forced to account for their interaction over time and the capacity of humanity to change. In order to preserve both aspects (language as a product of the body and language as a mode of creative interpretation) and at the same time to acknowledge their interplay under various conditions, Nietzsche turned to such proto-anthropologists as Blumenbach, Herder, and Humboldt, and to their successors, who were devoting so much energy and thought to the peoples outside the European mainstream. Emden proposes that “. . . Nietzsche thus sought to found his philosophical critique on an essentially anthropological insight— namely, the overlap of nature and culture as exemplified by the physiological background of human knowledge.”(11) Memory provided a key to this overlap, Emden argues, for it clearly had an organic basis (as experiments on aphasia had disclosed) yet was also aligned with language and its role in the transmission of social institutions. “Like Herder before him, then, Nietzsche suggests that the history of culture must take account of natural history, and memory is the place where the evolution of organic life meets the development of mental existence.”(12) Emden closes his book with a treatment of Nietzsche’s views on truth and morality.

The above summary presents the barest outline of Emden’s findings and in the interests of space omits qualifying discussions that are essential to his argument. Also absent are discussions of the scientific and linguistic researches of Nietzsche’s time as well as the philosopher’s own views on such topics as interpretation, truth, and construction of the self. It must also be acknowledged that the above may be deficient for quite another reason. This reviewer has often found Emden’s presentation so fluid and provisional, that it is often difficult to grasp either his meaning or what his final position might be. That a discerning and industrious intelligence is at work throughout cannot be doubted. That it has worked through and distilled its insights into a form worthy of their own importance is more open to query.

It must be said that Emden has set himself a task of forbidding difficulty. On the one hand he seeks to exposit Nietzsche's theories of language, consciousness, and the body, any one of which would prove formidable to accomplish and which as a triple ambition verges on the impossible. Yet he has tried to do even more, describing—often in detail—shifts in scholarly and scientific practices in the middle to late nineteenth century. To cap it all, he attempts to show how Nietzsche's ideas either arose in response to or were colored by these changes. To do all this in a single book—and to add as subtext an attempt to work through certain approaches associated with Bourdieu and Foucault— would demand prodigious learning, which Emden has, and a mastery of literary and intellectual structure, which in this text, at least, is less evident.

It demands yet another element, and that is a clear and consistently observed methodology. The book’s deficiency in this regard can be illustrated in a single statement, which moreover enunciates a central ambition of the book: ““If we wish to better understand how Nietzsche sought to formulate the relationships among language, consciousness, and the body, we must map the ambiguities of his writings onto the epistemic constellations that shaped the cultural consciousness and intellectual outlook of the later nineteenth century.”(13) This rather exciting if nebulous statement exposes the nub of Emden’s problem. Nietzsche’s theory of language (not to mention consciousness and body) is already vague and difficult to define. Emden proposes further to compare it with a field designated by “epistemic constellation,” a resonant and intellectually inviting term, which is, however, every bit as vague as the Nietzschean writings that he hopes to illuminate. As a result he finds himself in the position of trying to “map” one ill-defined homologue onto another that is equally diffuse. We must not ask for degrees of precision inappropriate to the material. We can, however, request that if Emden wishes to compare two bodies of work, he define the terms of comparison and show that he has met them.

As a point of contrast, one might mention a similar claim made in Claudia Crawford’s The Beginnings of Nietzsche’s Theory of Language,(14) a work Emden does not mention. Crawford too believed that Nietzsche’s work was heavily indebted to works by contemporaries, notably Lange, Fischer, Hartmann, and Gerber, with strong contributions by Schopenhauer and Kant. In her case, she directly linked individual statements by Nietzsche to specific texts by these authors. This was an act of genuine mapping in the sense of establishing that the items to be compared were homologues and that there existed some one-to-one correspondence between them. It is connections of this specificity that Emden seems unable to provide.

One might also compare Nietzsche on Language, Consciousness, and the Body with its successor, Emden’s Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of History. In that work also, the author is at pains to show how Nietzsche’s ideas and writings fit into the ideological battles of his time. In the latter case, however, the subject matters at issue were history and politics, disciplines that lay at the heart of Nietzsche’s project virtually from the beginning. The reader can see quite directly how Nietzsche struggled with historicist issues, and thanks to Emden’s illuminating contextual framing, which is far more fluid and assured than that presented in the earlier work, the reader can see that politics too was on his mind at least from The Birth of Tragedy onward. One does not need to speak of mapping when one can see the author immediately grappling with the issues at hand.

Physiology and the biological sciences, by contrast, entered Nietzsche’s published work obliquely and with little explicit acknowledgement. Indeed, virtually all the citations Emden quotes are from the Nachlaβ and would not have been available to the public during Nietzsche’s own time or in the immediate aftermath. As a result, the influence of biology, while unquestionably pervasive in Nietzsche’s work, is so little self-evident, at least in the canonic texts, that decades elapsed before most scholars recognized their presence at all. The process of showing that they influenced the philosopher not just in the better known passages (in the first parts of Beyond Good and Evil, for example) but throughout his writings calls for far more sustained and explicit exposition than Emden provides.

Ultimately, it must be said that Emden has a plausible thesis, has done an enormous amount of spadework, and has given his subject matter careful and insightful attention. Anyone interested in Nietzsche’s theory of language or the ways he sought to incorporate physiology into his work will find this text obligatory reading. Nonetheless, the volume as completed does not do justice to its own achievements. As has already been indicated, Emden’s later book, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of History, displays none of the aforementioned failings. One therefore awaits the day when he will return to the insights of this study and refashion them in a way that gives them their due. Until that time readers will find in Nietzsche on Language, Consciousness, and the Body a suggestive and frequently informative book, which promises much, delivers much, yet leaves the reader wondering at the gap between.

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