Kei Hiruta is a political theorist and Research Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. He received his D.Phil. in Political Theory from Oxford, and has held research and visiting positions at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Columbia University, Bard College, and the University of Tokyo. His monograph on Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin is forthcoming from Princeton University Press, and his edited volume entitled ‘Arendt on Freedom, Liberation, and Revolution’ is forthcoming from Palgrave
Macmillan. He is a co-founder and Associate Editor of Arendt Studies.
Political theory; political philosophy; theories of freedom; value pluralism and moral conflict; liberalism; republicanism; totalitarianism; twentieth-century political thought; Hannah Arendt; Isaiah Berlin
Berlin's Bête Noire: Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin on Freedom, Politics and Humanity
‘Berlin’s Bête Noire’ will be the first comparative study of the lives and works of Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) and Hannah Arendt (1906–1975). It makes the three-fold argument that: 1) major normative differences between the two thinkers are anchored in their conflicting views of the human condition; 2) this point of disagreement is rooted in their dispute over the inhumanity of totalitarian oppression and domination; and 3) the latter dispute in turn stems from the differences between Berlin’s Bolshevik-focused and Arendt’s Nazi-focused approaches to totalitarianism. Combining political philosophy and intellectual history, my research highlights specific aspects of the protagonists’ life-stories to illuminate their multifaceted disagreement. It unearths important similarities as well as differences between Berlin and Arendt, whose (partially) shared mode of political theorising contrasts with the recent post-Rawlsian standard. It concludes with a reflection on a highly contested issue of our time, namely, the pros and cons of philosophers’ engagement in real-world politics. I argue that the attempt to make political philosophy more political is highly precarious as well as potentially fulfilling.