Through (a) critical engagement with philosophical texts, I examine the phenomena and provide an in-depth analysis.

This is a line I am writing. The noun "engagement" seems tricky. Scrolling down dictionary entries, it seems to me this sense I am using in my writing is "the feeling of being involved in a particular activity" (Macmillan) or "the fact of being involved with something" (Cambridge). Both these sources define the noun as uncountable. However, "engagement" is a count noun when used to describe battles. Dictionary examples:

a military engagement

Heavy engagements are reported between rebels and government forces.

This makes me wonder if I can say "a critical engagement with texts". So is the noun a mass noun, a count noun, or either? Is the article needed/optional/incorrect?


Not being a philosopher, perhaps my input is not relevant here, but considering other "-ment" words [e.g. entrapment, attainment, involvement], I compared the following pairs of sentences:

1) Due to revelations of (a) police entrapment, the case was thrown out of court.

2) After (an) attainment of the highest ranking, the candidate withdrew his name.

3) (A) romantic involvement with a commoner led to his disgrace.

Possibly, sentence #1 might be slightly more idiomatic without the "a", but for the others...I don't think it makes any difference. In your sentence about engagement, both options sound equally idiomatic, and mean exactly the same thing, to me, a non-philosopher.


Neither choice sounds unnatural. But you probably want to imply to your audience that you distilled your results through extended engagement with the text (as opposed to a brief engagement during a rushed and hungover afternoon at a coffeeshop, say). In your manuscript, the engagement you're describing (between you, the audience, and the text) will also presumably be a long-lasting one.

So I don't think there's anything to be gained by adding the article. Note that your example of "a military engagement" generally has a precise beginning and end. Presumably you're still engaged with your target of study and will remain so for a while (or at least until your book is published / thesis is accepted / tenure is approved / audience is satisfied).

An exception might exist if you were describing a history of your scholarship and wished to distinguish a first engagement or reading from a second engagement that provided different insights. But this doesn't seem to be the case here.

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