Colgate University Libraries


One book that the Core Program at Colgate University would benefit from requiring in “The Challenges Of Modernity” is The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. The Fountainhead is a philosophical text centered around a young architect, Howard Roark, who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his modernistic architectural designs. In the context of Roark, the book encompasses many themes covered this semester in our coursework. Our class has covered the emergence of individualism, rationalism, and free thought, and Roark comes across as a manifestation of these themes, as an ideal modern character. After surviving as an individualist in a world heading towards collectivism and intellectual codependence, Roark parallels both Freud and Marx by eventually explaining his own thoughts on why society causes discontentment. Like Freud, Roark believes that restraining egocentric urges ultimately suppresses human emotion, and consequently Roark advocates for selfishness and resents altruistic thought. As an adamant individualist, Roark also shows a similar understanding of enlightenment as Kant, who believes that maturity is a product of one’s ability to think for oneself. However, Roark’s foil, Ellsworth Toohey, advocates for collectivism and for the empowerment of the masses, which are similar to Karl Marx’s themes in The Communist Manifesto. Ultimately, Rand argues that the principles of modernity are those that allow the individual to be protected from the masses through the freedoms modernity offers.