Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. She developed many of her ideas in response to the rise of totalitarianism in the C20th, partly informed by her own experience as a Jew in Nazi Germany before her escape to France and then America. She wanted to understand how politics had taken such a disastrous turn and, drawing on ideas of Greek philosophers as well as her peers, what might be done to create a better political life. Often unsettling, she wrote of 'the banality of evil' when covering the trial of Eichmann, one of the organisers of the Holocaust.
Against this, Berlin urged humanity to seek a decent society with pluralistic values, thus eschewing utopian perfectionism. This he thought to be characterised by a fallibilistic conception of knowledge, peaceful trade-offs, and the rejection of nihilism and relativism in favour of common values across genuinely diverse ways of life. Such a society would, he held, resolve to maintain a pluralistic balance of values against any and all attempts to sacrifice entire groups of people in the name of a future that can never be fully predicted.