Case For Atheism: Incompatibility of Bodiless Person?

By Prayson Daniel

In Philo, the Society of Humanist Philosophers published journal of Philosophy, Theodore M. Drange presented 10 incompatible properties arguments against the existence of God.  In this article I explored Drange’s 7th argument, namely the incompatibility of a nonphysical person.

Drange outlined “The Nonphysical-vs.-Personal Argument” as follows:

1.) If God exists, then he is nonphysical.

2.) If God exists, then he is a person (or a personal being).

3.) A person (or personal being) needs to be physical.

4.) Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1-3).(Drange 1998: url)

Since Judeo-Christians agrees with the truthfulness of Drange’s premise 1 & 2, if premise 3 is also true, then I believe theists are forced to the conclusion that a God, who is  nonphysical  and person, does not exist.

Drange quoted Kai Nielsen championing premise 3 namely, “we have no understanding of ‘a person’ without ‘a body’ and it is only persons that in the last analysis can act or do things.”(Nielsen 1983: 36), while pointing out that J. L. Mackie, contrary to Drange and Nielsen, find the idea of nonphysical person consistent and coherent.

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Expounding Drange’s case, Neilsen argued that a person without a body is an incoherent idea. He wrote,

God is said to be a person and to be a spirit without a body – another contradiciton, for a “bodiless person” is a contradiction in terms. Some have thought this is too quick a way with dissenters. These considerations indeed can’t be decisive or clinching arguments for nothing can be.(Nielsen 2005: 24)

Theists would concur with Drange and Nielsen, I believe, that this argument is valid. “But” asked Nielsen, “ is it a sound one? Are all the premises true?” Nielsen recognized that not only theists would disagree with the truthfulness of premise 3 but also  “an astute fellow atheist as J. L. Mackie does not.”(ibid)

Mackie does not think that the notion of bodiless person is inconsistent and incoherent. He explained…

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