Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

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Naturalistic and Supernaturalistic Disclosures: The Possibility of Relational Miracles

Amy Fisher Smith


This paper explores naturalism and supernaturalism as modes of disclosure that reveal and conceal different aspects of relationality. Naturalism is presented as a worldview or set of
philosophical assumptions that posits an objective world that is separable from persons and discoverable or describable via scientific methods. Because psychotherapy tacitly endorses many naturalistic assumptions, psychotherapy relationships may be limited to an instrumentalist ethic premised upon use-value and manipulability. Given these naturalistic limitations, relationships may require a supernatural component – a component which reaches beyond the naturalistic and into the miraculous. The alternative grounding for this supernatural disclosure is found in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and that of Emmanuel Levinas, the former emphasizing the possibilities inherent in contemplative rather than calculative disclosures, and the latter emphasizing ethical obligation and absolute otherness. A therapeutic case is discussed as an
exemplar of both kinds of relational disclosure – that is, naturalistic and supernaturalistic – and the therapeutic and relational consequences of each type of disclosure are explored.

Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, Volume 10, Edition 2, October 2010: 73-85
AJOL African Journals Online