Charles E. Dyke, 1938-2018

by CarlD

Chuck Dyke

Chuck Dyke died Wednesday afternoon, February 21, 2018, less than a month after multiple inoperable cancers were discovered. He slipped away quietly with his wife and life companion Linda reading by his side, as perfect an end as such a loving and sentimental man could wish.

Chuck was the only son of Robert and Thelma and grew up in Stoughton, Massachusetts. From his childhood came his love of horse operas and pie for breakfast, and hatred of boiled chicken and being told what to do. As soon as he could, he began making decisions for himself, eventually opting out of the local school system and paying his own way at Thayer Academy. He worked his way up a series of jobs, including camp counselor, soda delivery man, and emergency room orderly, contributing to his extensive and often surprising fund of skills and lore.

From Thayer Chuck went to Caltech, where he realized he had made a mistake within the first two days but lasted out the semester. The mistake was not STEM, which remained his lifelong passion, but the way it was taught in relation to how he learned. He returned east to Brandeis University, where he was introduced to Philosophy in the most Chuck Dyke possible way, by signing up for the elective the guy he was chatting with in line was signing up for. Collaboration and saying yes to learning new things remained defining dispositions.

Graduate school was at Brown for training in analytic philosophy and a “doleful dissertation” on Rawls, Arendt, and civil disobedience. The undoleful thunderbolt of romance struck when Chuck knocked at a fellow philosopher’s door and her sister Linda, a biologist and St. John’s graduate, opened it. As soon as social proprieties allowed their two sons appeared: Carl, a historian, and Alex, an environmental engineer.

More on Chuck’s education and career can be found in the excellent interview by John Protevi at the New APPS blog.

In the happy days of the early Sixties the academy was still in full mid-century expansion. Chuck had his choice of jobs and settled on Temple University in Philadelphia, where he spent his entire career. Chuck and Linda looked at the local commuter rail system (pdf), drove out a little farther from the farthest stop, and bought a nice old house with a barn and an acre and three quarters out in Bucks County farm country which is still the family home. The mortgage was about $90 a month, which for thirty years was a source of increasing amusement as the bank tried frantically to get them to refinance. This homestead hosted many, many gatherings of colleagues and students over the years.

In the early 70’s, during the oil embargo and the World Cup, Chuck accepted a two year posting at Temple’s Rome campus, another typical embrace of an opportunity to learn new things, and a life defining experience for the whole family. He read Machiavelli, Mazzini, and Hugo Pratt, did the hard crossword puzzles in Italian, figured out how to launder a car registration through Switzerland, and made friends with local scholars who showed him how to find the best regional wine. In those days he was “Baffone,” Big Moustache, and carried his hand carved pipes in a tooled Italian leather holster on his belt. Linda began to become an art historian, the kids went to Italian public school, and everyone looked at more triptychs of the Madonna and child than is good for anyone’s sanity. For summer vacations he packed the whole family of four large Americans into one of these:

fiat 126

Fiat 126, circa 1973

It was a tight fit. The family insect collecting equipment went on the roof rack, which led once to an amusing loss by theft of multiple boxes of dead, pinned insects.

Although he was professionally housed in Temple’s Philosophy Department, Chuck never identified with that or any other discipline. His genius was association and he went where association, collegial and intellectual, took him. His early interest in collective decision-making evolved into concern for the broader fields of relationship and possibility in which decision-making communities emerge, to the evolutionary dynamics of complex adaptive systems, nature, ecology, and climate. He was deeply concerned, broadly speaking, with how humans are systematically fucking things up for ourselves and everyone else, and with finding ways to make this plain enough to do some good.

At home Chuck was a gardener and an artist. He spent decades of attentive digging, fertilizing, rotating, composting, and mulching, transforming an unpromising clay slab into an intensely fertile garden that left him no alternative but to sneak up to neighbors’ doorsteps late at night and ply them with produce by stealth. His art encompassed any useful and interesting thing that could be rendered in carved wood, ranging from pipes for his own iconic use made from everything from brier to salvaged barn wood, to Appalachian chain carving and caged balls,

IMAG1136

Chain carving from the Bells and Whistles series. Collection of Carl Dyke and Rachel Herrick.

mobiles, finials, tools, knockers, handles, distributed copiously and freely to friends and family, to finally his award-winning abstract sculptures in cedar and walnut. As he did in all his teaching and collaboration, he let the wood speak to him, worked with what it was, and prompted the best of what it brought to their partnership.

Chuck was a huge human being of many parts, relations, and situations. If you knew him, please add to these remembrances in the comments so we can assemble a more complete record of him together.

Advertisements

15 Comments to “Charles E. Dyke, 1938-2018”

  1. Steven Weiss Charles “Chuck” Dyke was one of the great inspirations and mentors of my life. He was my teacher, my friend, my confidant, my musical playmate (we both played recorder), my interlocutor. I ate and slept at his house many times. We went to concerts together. He could cook, build, garden, and write.

    We taught together when I was a graduate student. He even attended my doctoral dissertation defense. I knew his kids and his wife very well.

    He gave me straightforward advice and sage counsel all the years we knew each other.

    We didn’t keep in touch much over the last few years; but I was thrilled to reconnect with Carl Dyke. Carl–I mourn your Dad. I loved him very much.

  2. Fortunate you are to have had a dad like Carl the Elder. If there was one book that he would have wanted us all to read, which would it be? As a celebration of his life, we could all read and write about it.

  3. In life, we have unforgettable teachers who cross our oaths, I was lucky enough to have crossed Chuck Dyke’s path…

  4. Chuck Dyke was my mentor in grad school and his mentorship exceeded philosophy. From Chuck I learned how to cook, how to Google (this was the mid-90s), how to read Virginia Woolf, how to watch Monty Python, how to situate feminist theory into intellectual history, and especially, how to teach. I find myself employing his guidance so often–with students, colleagues, and when writing. I owe him more than I can say, and his departure is an enormous loss.

  5. What an amazing reflection – very sorry for your loss…

  6. This is a lovely tribute, Carl. When our grandfather died, you had a wonderful tribute for him too. What a thing to have a knack for (for which to knack?). Maybe this means you’re supposed to write the next book of family history.

    My favorite memory of Uncle Chuck was visiting him and Aunt Linda when I was about 10 and challenging him to a game of Set, the pattern recognition game. Uncle Chuck was a little scary to me– he had a big beard and smoked a pipe and sometimes yelled or said Hrumph!– but I was challenging everyone to Set at that time. He was interested in the game and I took great glee in quickly capturing a few sets, probably before he’d even fully read the rules. He protested. I giggled. We were off! Once I could tell he knew what he was doing, I started singing high-pitched nonsense. He might have called me You Little Hrumph! Then he started singing in nonsense too, but in a loud growl. Linda had to leave the room. We continued on, madly signing nonsense in two distracting tones, intermittently calling out, “Set!” It was great fun, in part because it was a little scary. And, in part, because I knew Uncle Chuck was smart, but didn’t really understand what he taught at the time, and so this was the best way I had to connect.

    My favorite Chuck Dyke way of seeing, and one my parents and I still reference all the time, was about cats. When cats quickly change their behavior– from eating to running, from playing to sleeping, from nuzzling to biting– is because the dice in their heads flipped. Cats’ heads aren’t full of brains, but rather just a pair of dice shaking around, dictating their every move.

  7. This is sad news. He sounds like a remarkable man, a one-of-a-kind dad. I’m so sorry.

  8. My sincere condolences, Carl. I wrote to your father out of the blue in admiration of his work, and he turned out to be a correspondent as brilliant and generous as the books and articles that first drew me to him. I bounced many half-baked ideas off him, and they came back in much better shape than when I first sent them out. I only met him in person once, when he came downtown to a conference hotel I was staying at, and I was struck by how his in real life presence was reflected in his writing style: warm, witty, and avuncular. He will be greatly missed.

  9. It was way back when I was still doing time in the philosophy department, before Chuck effected the jailbreak of my life (the file was baked inside a hefty dose of humble pie). I was struggling with my Master’s Thesis on Herbert Marcuse, and my teacher Yrjö Haila suggested that I would meet his friend, an old student of Marcuse.

    Thus Yrjö drafted me into the motley crew of researchers that became the Umbrella Group – Chuck was the confidant, the mentor and the grumpy uncle of us all. We met in 1998 in Pori, Finland, in one of the excellent workshops Yrjö organized.

    During the lunch break Chuck nudged me and suggested we take a walk – there was a beautiful park island nearby. As often happened with Chuck, we did not end up talking about what we were supposed to. Marcuse was dropped by the wayside, and we conversed a confusing multitude of issues. (My hasty notes that I know are still somewhere include a reference to “Boeing and Time” [sic].) Two things stick out in my memory. First of all, Chuck explaining the concept of energy gradient by pointing at the glowing tip of my cigarette. Secondly, he explained the concept of manifolds by, well, folding and crumbling one of my cigarette roll-up papers.

    After the workshop Chuck visited our university in Tampere and held a class where he combined virtual images of a cyclotron with singing Monty Python’s The Galaxy Song. So that was it. I’d found a friend.

    During the initial years Chuck was primarily a mentor, and a bloody strict one at that. Yrjö and Chuck were editing a book that became “How Nature Speaks” (Duke Uni Press, 2006), and my early attempts were so pitiful that Chuck kicked me virtually in the groin to get me on the right track (or rather a productive wobble – “track” does not fit Chuck very well) and then patiently steered me in the right direction – towards Cicero and gardens. This tough love would remain his trademark through all these years.
    “Watch out here: your’re an inveterate quibbler, and that screws everything up.” (March 2001, with the language tidied up a bit).

    Emails were the main conduit of the mentorship that slowly developed into friendship. Chuck would comment stuff on my dissertation, and I had the pleasure to comment several of his manuscripts over the years (“Clio Meets Chaos: the Movie” was the first one). Especially after I began gardening seriously with my wife Marjaana, our correspondence gained more layers. I guess composting, fava beans and cicoria covered more ground than anything to do with philosophy or ecology.

    I also started to translate Chuck’s texts into our philosophical journal niin & näin. The first one in 2006 was a key text on biodiversity and West-Eberhad’s Developmental Plasticity and Evolution – an essay where Chuck told me he had decided to “take the gloves off”. For me, this was a transformative experience. But the fun really started with my translation of Chuck’s five-part essay series Life in the Horse Opera. We both loved westerns, so this added a new layer to our discussions. Over the years, niin & näin published ten of his essays.

    If my memory serves me (Chuck would say something witty here), we only met face-to-face three times during these 20 years. The first time was in Pori in 1998, and the second one was when Chuck returned to Tampere to teach us for a few days many years later, in 2009 I think. (There may have been two visits which I have melded in my mind – yes, mind melds: Star Trek was another bridge over generations and the ocean.) This time I also met dear Linda, and we three talked a lot about Rome, which had in the meantime become a beloved place for me too. (Although Chuck would always grumble about the slow progress I made with the language of the Old Country.) It was a wonderful seminar and at a perfect time for me. I had finished my PhD on Rousseau but had a hard time getting out of the dusty disciplinary terrain.

    It was around this time that Chuck began again to work seriously with economics and energetics. Some of that stuff leaked into our workshops in Tampere, some of it was in a book manuscript Chuck asked me to comment. I was getting out of the academia and finally escaping the confines of what sometimes is still labeled “philosophy”, and was trying to find my way. Chuck called me Ishmael, “the orphaned and the wanderer”, but reminded that Ishmael survived to tell he tale. He reminded me that I was never alone, no matter the institutional or paycheck-related problems. It was mainly reading Chuck’s texts on economics and Vaclav Smil that helped me to change the course. The result was my first real book (apart from a youthful fantasy novel).

    In 2015 I had the chance to visit Doylestown and stay there for two weeks. I was supposed to write a revised English edition of my first book (not the fantasy one – that would have been fun!), but Chuck made quick work in demolishing that endeavor. For a moment I was Ishmael again, but Chuck had plans for me. I spent two weeks reading Ben Ramalingam, Elinor Ostrom, C. S. Holling and assorted issues of Nature. I went back to school. The schedule was rigorous: up at 6 AM, two to three hours of reading, coffee & pipesmoke. At 9 AM, work in the garden for a few hours, lunch (bread and jam) and siesta. Then at say 2 PM, back to reading until a late dinner, vino and two movies.

    I fell in love with “the Piano”, the wonderful cutting mattock, and back in Finland I found a blacksmith who was adventurous enough to craft me one. I don’t know how I managed without it. I never wrote the book: I did other, more important and better things that all draw from the stuff I read and discussed in Doylestown.

    It is hard to understand that the steady reports about gardening, weather and assorted stuff are over. But that is the way with gardens: they are not tended for the eternity. Illusions of immortality were one of Chuck’s favorite gripes. Mixed with the sadness was the happiness in knowing that he died in the house he loved, with beloved Linda, the cats and the bric-a-brac around him. I will let my dearest friend finish this, as he was always the wiser one, the one better with words. This is from his piece on Edgar Morin.

    “As the young Sicilians say, the fear of silence is the fear of death. From that point of view, prospects of biosphere decay threaten silences that will make Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring sound like ‘The Rite of Spring.’ Total death is indeed a silence to be feared. Individual deaths, like Shade’s, and mine, and yours, on the other hand, can be openings.”

    Provo a continuare, amico caro.

  10. I was part of a group of temple students who was fortunate enough to meet chuck and Linda when they spent time at temple Rome campus. Such welcoming and inspirational people. When we all returned to Philadelphia, chuck and Linda often hosted us for dinners at their chalfont home. My condolences on the passing of such a remarkable man.

  11. Prof. Chuck Dyke was philosophy professore in the Temple Abroad/ Tyler School of Art in Rome when I attended in the early ’70s to manor in fine art sculpture, drawing and printmaking. Seeking a broader understanding of visual arts past, present and future i.audited a class of his and it.was a riot! Chuck was BRILLIANT and keenly observant of the human comedy and the intersection thereof in history.
    Capable of explaining profound and complex principles in common sense terms his ability to help a student realize and comprehend on each pupils own terms benefited every one of us. My first foray into classical philosophy I use his object lessons daily in my life and art. Always laid back he would have is over to his home in Rome to spread around his living and talk, debate, joke,discover and reason together amid the incense of his ever burning pipe and many bottles of Italian vintage.All of my Temple friends are from this class as Tyler was not on main campus in those years. I still have the great fortune to enjoy the friendship of many of these great folk now 41 years later.
    Seems like yesterday.I was saddened to hear of his departure but I am sure if he could explain to us he might use the Plato “CAVE” example to describe seeing at last the other side.The “SENSUS PLENIOR”, our METANOIA.
    I am grateful Susan for sending me his obituary. You are very thouhtful and deserving of being exemplary of the best of Chucks students. Mille Grazie carina. Gerhard

  12. Chuck was my friend, mentor, and colleague since I arrived at Temple in 2000. He was a polymath with a renaissance mind-set. He travelled easily in all sorts of different disciplines and had no time for disciplinary boundaries and conventions – or any academic conventions for that matter. He was happy to dwell in the hinterlands of the metropolis of academic philosophy, taking what he needed when he wanted it, but not getting caught up in the day-to-day. Talking with him for any length of time was like taking a journey. An initial question would lead you on a chase across the intellectual landscape ending up somewhere you would not have imagined. At first, the moves he made seemed strange and I found myself puzzled by many things he said. Only days later would the logic of what he was saying strike me. You had to be willing to suspend your expectations to talk with Chuck, but I always liked this philosophical vagrancy: it gave you a freedom to wander high and low and see connections you would never see otherwise. And it wasn’t just philosophy. It was how Chuck was as a person. Unconventional but very rewarding to talk a “random walk” with. I learned a lot from these rambles not just about philosophy, but life. I hope I’ve learned enough of this habitus to recreate it, but it will never be the same without Chuck.

  13. Chuck, Without You Not
    I think we first met at the ISHPSSB biannual conference in London, Ontario, in June 1989. Almost 30 years ago, that is. I had already come across your texts in the volumes edited by David Depew and Bruce Weber (Evolution at a Crossroads, 1985; Entropy, Information, and Evolution, 1988). In London, we attended the same sessions – shared interests – and talked, of course. I sort of remember that you mentioned your current interests included the dynamics of decision making at faculty meetings at universities. At first this, to me, sounded the most boring subject imaginable, but I was wrong, as it turned out; dynamics are always interesting, and faculties are, well, boring in an interesting way (later, I got some support for this conclusion through my own experience, too). The other theme you mentioned was the relation between analog and digital – a key theme in dynamic thinking that has intrigued me ever since (and on which we have actually also done some further work together, in the guise of analogue models).
    Lasting impressions from the very beginning, in a word.
    The contact was strengthened at the next two ISHPSSB meetings. Among other things, you participated in the session in honor of Dick Levins which I organized together with Peter Taylor at Evanston in 1991.
    Correspondence started at some stage around the turn of the 1990s. We exchanged texts, and comments on texts – your commentary certainly being more thorough and helpful than mine. I tried – and still try – to learn from your amazing command of straightforward and precise language. Well, as I remember, I once sent a note that I had had nothing to send over lately as I had written mainly in Finnish; your response: “My Finnish is not what it used to be; in fact it never was.”
    You came finally to Finland to attend the second Pori Workshop on environmental social science in August 1995; I organized the early ones together with Juha Hiedanpää. Pori is a town on the Finnish west coast; the Pori Art Museum – where Marketta used to work – offered facilities. The annual seminar series lasted until 2000 although the last one was held in Tampere. As a rule, we had four days of sessions, everybody participating, and an excursion day. You attended also in 1998 and 2000. Everybody was impressed by the firm and supportive comments you gave to the presentations which were mainly given by PhD students.
    I got my part of it in 1995. I remember I threw a sloppy comment on chance and chaos theory, and you intervened and corrected. Later, via our correspondence, you also saved me from a couple of embarrassments by straightforward commentary. You gave the most useful lesson a teacher can get: be firm. If you really want to help students, don’t tell them platitudes.
    As it happened, your first visit occurred in the summer when I was getting prepared to start teaching environmental policy at the university of Tampere (a job that lasted until 2014); needless to say, you gave a great model for me on how to give comments to the students. Firm and supportive is the slogan I have tried to follow.
    In the 2000s you came to Tampere on another two occasions. Linda was along on the last three trips. Overall, you came to give a considerable contribution to the work of the Finnish contingent of PhDs in environmental social science in the first decade of the new millennium.
    I visited with Marketta Doylestown for the first time in April 1999. Teemu – then 12 years old – was along; the house of yours and Linda’s, 3923 Ferry Road, has been known as the “cat house” ever since in our domestic parlance. Several visits by Marketta and me followed; I reckon six altogether. And also, we four, you and me and Linda and Marketta, made a joint trip to Rome for the New Year of 2008, staying there for a week. We had fantastic guides, to say the least, to a great city that we knew very little about in concreto.
    Then, the work: The collection How Nature Speaks (Duke, 2006) that we edited together was an important experience. The essays were mainly put together from the talks at the workshop held in August 2000. The process was pretty hectic at times. Else, we exchanged drafts and ideas with variable rate – teaching takes its toll, time-schedule-wise, but teaching also offers lots of material to throw into the cauldron where shared ideas ripen. The correspondence has been invaluable for me all along. It should be no surprise to anybody, least of all to you, that one plan for the near future that I’m going to carry out is to collect together the materials you sent over and prepare a collection of some sort.
    Besides, we have two unfinished projects: First, on your initiative the series of short essays on Hesiod in the light of experiences of work in our respective gardens – “Where heavens meet the earth: two friends reflect on Hesiod” is the title you put on a draft of the introduction. Second, on my initiative, a book on The Biodiversity Crisis and the Human Dependence on the Biosphere. The former is almost there, only the final touch is needed to get it finished. The latter has a longer way to go, but we have the understanding of the main points and the structure of the argument.
    Eventually, both of these will be completed, too, don’t worry.
    But let’s be honest: I need to find a new rhythm, and this will take some time. Whom to ask for advice when an idea is taking shape? The world feels a much more lonely place than it used to for a few weeks ago. But nevertheless, the writing and thinking goes on – what else?
    Besides, as always, those who leave town stay with the rest of us as long as the traces of their influence are present in our everyday working routines – in the active memory that feeds to our work. You will stay around for a long time.

  14. Thank you, Yrjo, for your wonderful appreciation of Chuck. Your visits and communications were highlights in our lives. I hope they will continue.
    Linda

  15. I’ve been thinking of Professor Dyke a good bit the past few days and this morning I went to dig up a letter of recommendation he wrote me in 2012. It made me weep a bit when I received it in how much it made me feel seen, in a time I felt anything but in most every other part of my life. After reading it again this morning I went to email him, and poked around on the internet first, finding this news. I called Mr. Dyke my ‘Professor Hero’. His ‘intrepidly non-traditional’ presence and rebellious spirit were enormously inspiring to me, and I learned a great deal from him. His strength for me as an educator was in his ability to teach more through being as through doing, or explaining, a remarkable and decidedly difficult skill to master. I went to visit him in his office as much as I could while at my time at Temple, and cherish those chats and his generosity with his time toward my questioning. I certainly hope he knew how deeply inspiring a force he was for so many of his students. Sincerely, Jessica Burch

Leave a Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: