Kei Hiruta

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline Political Philosophy
Research Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford

Research project

Berlin's Bête Noire: Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin on Freedom, Politics and Humanity


During the EURIAS year, I will complete a monograph entitled ‘Berlin’s Bête Noire: Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin on Freedom, Politics and Humanity’. The book is a comparative study of the lives and works of Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) and Hannah Arendt (1906–1975). It makes the three-fold argument that: (i) major normative differences between Berlin and Arendt are anchored in their conflicting views of the human condition, of what it means to be human; (ii) this point of disagreement is rooted in their dispute over the inhumanity of totalitarian oppression; and (iii) the latter dispute in turn stems from the differences between Berlin’s Stalinist-centric and Arendt’s Nazi-centric approaches to totalitarianism. Combining political philosophy and intellectual history, Berlin’s Bête Noire highlights select aspects of the protagonists’ life-stories, including Berlin’s animosity towards Arendt, to illuminate their disagreement. It shows that a set of significant theoretical differences underpinned their rivalry, refuting recent studies that have inflated psychological issues such as Berlin’s alleged sexism and his purported academic vanity. It also criticises the more substantive contention that the two thinkers’ mutual dislike ultimately comes down to their conflicting attitudes towards Jewish politics and the Zionist movement.


Offering the first comprehensive account of the multifaceted conflict between Berlin and Arendt, Berlin’s Bête Noire highlights important similarities as well as differences between the two thinkers, whose shared mode of political theorising starkly 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.




Kei Hiruta is Research Fellow in Philosophy at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. He received his DPhil from Oxford, was previously a Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, and has held visiting research positions at Columbia University, Bard College, and the University of Tokyo. He is a co-founder and Associate Editor of Arendt Studies. His forthcoming monograph entitled ‘Berlin’s Bête Noire: Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin on Freedom, Politics, and Humanity” is under contract with Princeton University Press. 


Selected publications


Arendt on Freedom, Liberation, and Revolution, (ed.), Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2019. [forthcoming]


‘Isaiah Berlin’, in P. Gratton & Y. Sari (eds), The Bloomsbury Companion to Hannah Arendt, Bloomsbury, London, 2019. [forthcoming]


‘A Democratic Consensus?: Isaiah Berlin, Hannah Arendt, and the Anti-totalitarian Family Quarrel’, Think, vol. 17, no. 48, 2018, pp. 25–37.


‘“An Anti-Utopian Age?”: Isaiah Berlin’s England, Hannah Arendt’s America, and Utopian Thinking in Dark Times’, Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 21, no. 1, 2017, pp. 12–29.


‘The Meaning and Value of Freedom: Berlin contra Arendt’, The European Legacy, vol. 19 no. 7, 2014, pp. 854–868.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Urban Studies
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Psychology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Sociology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Economics