The False Materialism of America's Death Penalty

26 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2016

See all articles by Joseph Pratt

Joseph Pratt

Peking University Law School

Date Written: November 16, 2016


For most of America’s history, the death penalty has been rooted in a materialistic conception of the world — human beings are engaged in a physical survival of the fittest and must be restrained. This base worldview, however, has often conflicted with higher considerations, like justice and forgiveness. Though the country’s conservative and liberal factions debate the reason for felonious crime as well as the efficacy of the death penalty, the country thus far has come down in favor of capital punishment. Daoism suggests that America has adopted an erroneous conception of the world, and so the country has not only failed to understand the death penalty but also perpetuated the personal and societal conflict that leads to violent crime and the death penalty. Daoism further explains that for fundamental reasons this divide in America has occurred along racial lines. According to Daoism, society now needs to return to a harmonious balance between the implicit spiritual whole and the manifest individual parts, and in doing so the people will prosper naturally. Only in this way, Daoism counsels, can a society address the underlying causes of crime and end the death penalty for good.

Keywords: Death Penalty, Criminality, Materialism, Reductionism, Social Darwinism, Taoism, Holism

Suggested Citation

Pratt, Joseph, The False Materialism of America's Death Penalty (November 16, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Joseph Pratt (Contact Author)

Peking University Law School ( email )

Chenming Building, Room 217
Haidian District
Beijing, 100871

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics