Oppenheimer, haunted by his leading role in the first use of atomic weapons, understood only one aspect of prudence. His longing not to do evil himself blinded him to the need to ward off the evil of others. This painfully knotted man hoped with one swipe of his moral sword to rid himself of the impossible tangle and to be clear and simple for once in his life. But being Oppenheimer could never be as easy as that.For Oppenheimer embodied two of the highest human types, the theoretical man described by Aristotle as god-like for living in the mind, among changeless truths, and the paragon of Machiavellian virtue, god-like in commanding the power of life and death over other men. No theoretical man before Oppenheimer had known such lordly power. In certain high moments he approached that Aristotelian theoretical purity which lives for the joys of knowing the world, whatever it might prove to be; in another light he thrilled at that Machiavellian power and its attendant renown; in contrary moods he reviled himself for the suffering he brought into the world, and ached to renounce his distinction and to be merely another man among men. Perhaps no theoretical man can be equal to such a burden: to feel knowledge as power when one’s mind reshapes the world irrevocably, to see the light of truth as the agent of some dark majesty, is not grace but ordeal. Oppenheimer’s agony tore him open from top to bottom.

~ Algis Valiunas