Lapoujade, D. (2017). Aberrant movements: The philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (J.D. Jordan, Trans.). South Pasadena: Semiotext(e). (Original work published 2014)

This text was published after, though translated before, Lapoujade’s short overtures to Bergson. Lapoujade (b. 1964) is a professor at the Sorbonne, highly conversant in Deleuze’s entire oeuvre, especially after editing the posthumous collections of Deleuze’s writings, Desert Islands and Two Regimes of Madness. 


In the introduction to this translation, John Rajchman lauds Lapoujade’s long-term and penetrating engagement with Deleuze. Conversant in Deleuze’s entire oeuvre, Lapoujade understands Deleuze’s writings not as a body of work or project, but as a complex problem posed by movement. Lapoujade paints a picture of Deleuze as a philosopher with a surprisingly conservative taste for the perverse. Although Deleuze himself associated the encyclopedia form with the orthodoxy of post-Kantian philosophies, Lapoujade describes Deleuze as engaged in an inventory of aberrant movement. 

What makes a movement abberant? What makes logic irrational? In what ways are movement and logic thus inherently linked to one another? These are Lapoujades central questions. The answers to these questions cannot be inferred through axiomatic demonstration. The link between aberrant movements and the irrational logics that make them thinkable for us must always be teased out of particular assumptions and experiences. These questions present “problems” in the Deleuzian manner: “something that upsets what we take for granted, opening up a new, vital, free experimentation in thought” (9). 

What is aberrant movement? Aberrant comes from the Latin “ab,” away/from, and “errare,” to stray. It is to stray from. A movement is aberrant just when it breaks away from a given rational logic,veering into new paths, uncharted zones. As examples, Rajchman gives the “wander lines” of Fernard Deligny’s diagrams of the movement of autistic children or Stephen Rose’s picture of the brain as an uncertain system.

Aberrant movements suppose a material universe that is not closed in on itself, with the potential for inchoate powers, or the virtuality of improbable moves that upset the rules of logical classifications. (9). After collecting all these movements, the question becomes: How can we make those moves today? How can these kinds of movements be extended or carried on? For Deleuze questions persist in the solutions given to it.

Lapoujade speaks of Deleuze’s solitude. 

Deleuze’s thought is opposed to given classifications and fixed sets, along with the sorts of reason required to manipulate these kinds structures and objects. Deleuze sought a new kind of logic: “the logic of “And,” rather than “Is,” of putting things together prior to attributions. He seeks to dethrone and undercut attribution and recognition. In this way “aberrant movement is movement in the zone before our ability to say IS.” (10) It is the movement of differences freed from categories, trees. It is of repetitions of things that are no longer the same. Movement cannot be contained in the hylomorphic cosmos or be organized in advance in fixed forms or categories. Aristotle argues that all movement is contained within formed matter. Deleuze gets his ideas about repetition from Neitzsche. Abberant movement supposes a “chaosmotic” material universe, which can never be contained in any categorical rationality (even when a priori categories are made transcendental by Kant).

Aberrant movement is the movement of inchoate extra-categorical potentials or powers in language, as in the world. They require a new and seemingly irrational logic to become thinkable. (11)

Deleuze is attacking two things – the sentential or set-theoretic logics of analytic philosophy, along with the dialectical logics of German Idealism (Hegel, Marx). Deleuze is aided in this effort by the work of Lewis Carroll, Hume, James and Spinoza. They put on display non-sense and paradox, sensation and a patchwork universe always in the making. Bergson describes the “open whole” – an non-dialectical totality, freely bringing together difference (rather than contradictions that are resolved of sublated)

In Deleuze’s irrational logic, one no longer thinks through attributions and demonstrations or the resolution of contradiction. It operates, instead, through putter disparate things together in ways that cannot be assembled into sets or reduced to enclosed totalities. This is linked to the disjunctive synthesis of collage, arts and crafts, patchwork, weaving, cut-ups and montage. Deleuze’s early essay on Godard gives a striking description of movements in this new world, where IS is dethroned by AND. Deleuze learns from Nietzsche that this kind of work can be introduced to philosophy through style. Take for example Nietzsche’s aphorisms and Nietzsche’s frohlich style. His writing itself is geared to defeat any totalizing over-view or deductive presentation. It puts the reader in the midst of movement, without a fixed beginning or end, passing from one thing to another, unable to create a coherent whole. 

The original model for abberant movement was the primal Lack? But Deleuze found a new model in Kafka, the flight of minor literature. He comes up with a new way of posing the question about aberrant movement: It is not simply a-categorical, but also de-territorialized in an unrecoverable manner. His logic becomes irrational in a new way. It is now nomadic, rhizomatic, addressed to people not already given. Opposing the rationality branching and identity, aberrant movement is introduced into the idea of collectivity. It is on-going experimental dis-identification. “The irrationality of aberrant movement is thus shown in new forms and styles of “collective enunciation,” given by groups without masters or leaders. Troubling because they are unclassifiable – too smooth to ever be pinned down. Aberrant movement becomes an-archical, before constituted power, able to draw on powers not yet constituted. They are part of a collective fabulation of what might yet come. They are heterotopian rather than upotian.

Deleuze offers essentially a new philosophy of matter and materials. Starting with Spinoza’s sense of the vital indetermination of our singular bodies, Deleuze delivers a philosophy of nature that is not closed in on itself by a prior Form or Principle. He seeks a philosophy of the material world that cuts across divisions between life/machine/human/animal/gender/sex. It must allow for assemblages of another kind. There is a new vision of technique and technology prior to the division between nature and artifice. The problem is how to introduce the new (the play of the improbable) into the social and technical machines that limit what we can do and say. Assemblage takes over from disjunctive synthesis. A thousand plateaus is the apotheosis of this vision. It asks: What is the link between a deterritorialize Earth and the creation of a peoples yet to come.

D+G were disappointed with TPs reception. It’s time was not right. The aberrant movement that it called for never materialized. Instead they saw the rise of a new society of control. Deleuze felt himself to be living through a poor period. A period rich in aberrant movement had been lost. He began to ask: What to do, how to think, when aberrant movement is closed off and shut down. Deleuze wondered how to rescue the aberrant movement  of earlier richer moments. He sought ways to pick up old arrows and keep alive the sense of what makes aberrations vital and joyful. Deleuze saw the very act of thinking as something vital in itself. Thinking for Deleuze was a matter of life, not of theory. Lapoujade encourages us to see Deleuze’s work less as a project and more as a complex problem posed by movement.