To read Heisenberg, Kant, or Borges—or, for that matter, Dostoevsky—is to be dumbfounded by the breadth of knowledge that was once expected of intellectuals (Heisenberg once claimed “that one could hardly make progress in modern atomic physics without a knowledge of Greek natural philosophy”), and it’s clear that the ability to think and express themselves in broad, analogical strokes deepened their work. On the Mindscape podcast, [William] Egginton noted that after spending half his career writing scholarly books that were read only by colleagues and graduate students, he found popular writing to be a revelation—not because it was easier but because it demanded more rigorous thought. “And then it began to seem to me that some of my past writing was relying on, say, jargon,” he said, “or skipping steps in thinking through a problem by using a kind of shorthand that I felt that my colleagues and students would totally understand but that we hadn’t necessarily really thought through.”

Meghan O’Gieblyn, “The Trouble with Reality”