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In Memoriam: David Dick (1979-2022)



It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear friend and colleague, David Dick.

David was an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Calgary, and a Fellow in the Haskayne School of Business’s Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business. These academic titles only hint at the depth of his public engagement with questions of business ethics. He oversaw Calgary’s Integrity Network, and he was frequently asked to comment on issues in business ethics by Canadian news mediaand to give lectures to the business community. He obtained his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Michigan in 2008. His dissertation, which argued that a Strawsonian understanding of the reactive attitudes shows that moral theory should be fallible, was awarded the Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellowship.

David focused on developing our understanding of money, and his work was a central part of the recent resurgence in philosophical interest in that topic. But he also wrote about commodification and inequality. Besides his characteristic wit and way with words, which were on display in conversation as much as his written work, he brought clarity and precision to his subject of interest. In a 2021 paper for the Journal of Social Ontology, he pointed out that we find teleological arguments–i.e. arguments that infer what money is from premises about what money is for–in both Locke and Aristotle, but that these arguments are of different kinds, and are more successful in some cases than others. David also wrote on commodification and inequality. In a 2018 paper for Public Affairs Quarterly he intervened in the polarizing debate about whether commodification is an expressive wrong. Here, he pointed out that we need to be careful to pay attention to the variety of expressive objections in considering whether these objections are successful or not.

These professional achievements and academic interests do not do justice to what a large and beloved personality David was. David was self-effacing and funny. He would start class by writing his name on the board, waiting a beat, and then announcing: “You will call me by my first name, for obvious reasons.” David was a sharp dresser: many of us are familiar with the black t-shirt and black jacket that made him look like a European intellectual, but friends from grad school remember him wearing a tweed suit and skull ring, when he wasn’t wearing his red union t-shirt. Above all, however, and most memorably, David was deeply kind. In any gathering he was the best storyteller, yet he would but would always shine the spotlight away from himself. He gave his attention and time generously to his colleagues, his grad students, and even students at other institutions.

David took an active interest in the work of the PPE Society, and had many friends and interlocutors amongst its members. He planned to attend both conferences this year. Unfortunately, he had to cancel his plans in February due to Covid protocol and then again in November because his mother had fallen ill unexpectedly. He was in Utah looking after her when he passed away.

There is a fundraiser to support David Dick’s widow, Erin Dick-Jensen.

-Julian Jonker and Graham Hubbs

Published inPPE News