Engagement And Contemplation
Two Elements Inherent Of Care

EDITORIAL  by Zoltán Somhegyi We may at first be tempted to simplify the ambiguity of engagement and contemplation into the question of whether we shall act or observe. The dilemma always haunts: Do we always need to intervene and attempt to change the flow of events? Should we attempt, on various levels, to make at […]

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by Zoltán Somhegyi

We may at first be tempted to simplify the ambiguity of engagement and contemplation into the question of whether we shall act or observe.

The dilemma always haunts: Do we always need to intervene and attempt to change the flow of events? Should we attempt, on various levels, to make at least minor interventions in the existing processes, or to make enormous, ambitious efforts to have major impacts on crucial questions? Are we always fully aware of the fact that this may have its own risks? We may act “too quickly,” not dedicating enough time to think things over—either in advance or during the action—as a form of critical evaluation of our intervention? Naturally, without constant reflection, the result of even our best intentions may be to make things even worse than before.

Preliminary rumination may be a solution, but it has its own risks, too. The dilemma remains—instead of engagement, might it really be better to merely observe and contemplate? Is it safer, and more prudent, or might it rather be interpreted as an euphemistic shortcut, an excuse for being more comfortable, lazy, or even cowardly? Are we ready to take the risk of being engaged, or are we hiding behind noble (or noble-looking) contemplation?

The 4th issue of HAS Magazine again investigates two seemingly opposing concepts. However, just as in the previous topics (Nr. 1: “Big Data and Singularities,” Nr. 2: “Between Anxiety and Hope,” and Nr. 3: “Truth and Belief”), the two carefully-chosen concepts do not simply oppose each other—rather, they complement each other. Given the fragility of their meaning and the changing and shifting values attributed to them, we have again located these two concepts in the centre of the investigation—not as things from which one needs to choose, but as a frame that contains the possible forms of action.

Hence, it is again not just “either/or,” but also “and,” and “as well.” Engagement cannot efficiently work without contemplation. And they do not simply work in chronological order. As stated above, contemplation does not necessarily or always have to precede action, but continuously accompanies engagement. While we often try to “think in advance” before acting, it can also happen that a first, “instinctive” action is then controlled and corrected by contemplation of the results, or by reflection on the effect.

As we wrote in the call for this issue: “Contemplation is a mindset characterized by a heightened awareness of life. It is a mode of perception based on the observation and attention to all things living, identities, otherness, and contradictions…. It encompasses reflection and care.” In this sense, contemplation can be an end in itself, and may lead to important insights. At the same time, however, a common experience of many of us is that contemplation cannot work efficiently without engagement. In this interpretation, contemplation can remain inefficient without an action. Consequently, contemplation can not only lead to, but also lead engagement. 

The question therefore remains : Can’t contemplation be, sometimes, a most effective and subtle form of engagement?

The theoretical analyses, case studies, project reports, and artworks in this 4th issue of HAS Magazine were selected to shed further light on this “collaboration” between engagement and contemplation, to mutually influence and enlarge their potentialities.

An art historian with a PhD in aesthetics, Zoltán Somhegyi is Editor-in-Chief of HAS Magazine and Associate Professor of art history at the Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary.

All articles are edited by HAS magazine, unless indicated by * next to the author’s name.

All views or opinions expressed in HAS magazine belong to the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of HAS magazine or any of its affiliated operators.

Editorial team

DIRECTOR Luiz Oosterbeek (CIPSH)
DIRECTOR Margalit Berriet (Mémoire de l’Avenir)
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Zoltán Somhegyi
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR Marie-Cécile Berdaguer
PROJECT ASSISTANT Tamiris de Oliveira Moraes
FRENCH EDITOR  Aurore Nerrinck, Marcel Rodriguez
FRENCH CORRECTORS Aurore Nerrinck, Margherita Poli & Marcel Rodriguez
FRENCH AND ENGLISH TRANSLATION Ashley Molco Castello, Helena Schümmer, Robin Jaslet & Adrienne Lee
DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT Active Creative Design
WEBMASTER Labib Abderemane
GRAPHIC DESIGN Costanza Matteucci & Élodie Vichos
OPERATIONS Mémoire de l’Avenir


Advisory Panel

Aurélien Barrau Astrophysician, Professor at the University of Grenoble-Alpes and filmmaker
Madeline Caviness Professor in Art History at Tufts University, member of CIPSH
Marc William Debono Neuroscientistpoet and essayist, Heading the Arts and Science Center at CC91
Divya Dwivedi Philosopher and writer, Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Wang Gungwu Historian, Professor Emeritus at the Australian National University and Professor at the National University of Singapore
Étienne Klein Physicist, Philosopher of Science and Director of Research at CEA ( Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives)
Hsiung Ping-chen Secretary-General of the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences ( CIPSH) –  and CIPSH Chair in “New Humanities”, University of California, Irvine
Alain Husson-Dumoutier UNESCO artist for peace, painter, sculptor and writer
Charles-Etienne Lagasse President of the Jacques Georgin Study Centre
Liu Mengxi Founding chief editor of the magazines Chinese Culture and World Sinology, director of the Institute of Chinese Culture
Liu Thai Ker Architect and urbanist, President of the Centre for Liveable Cities
Benno Werlen UNESCO Chair on Global Understadnding for Sustainability
Maryam Rashidi PhD scholar, Interdisciplinary & Cross-cultural Studies (ANU, Australia) and Independent researcher (France)
Patrick Degeorges Philosopher, specialist in the sciences and politics of sustainability
Harold Sjursen, Professor of Philosophy and Global Ethics, New York University
Lucilla Spini Doctor in Biological Anthropology, University of Florence
Suvra Chakraborty Entrepreneur, music patron and UN consultant