If you don’t know algebra, it will be hard to learn calculus. If you don’t know arithmetic, it will be hard to learn algebra, and even harder to learn calculus. That’s because calculus builds on the concepts of algebra and arithmetic, and you can’t build on a concept you’re not already familiar with. This is the basic idea behind inferential distance.

The problem of inferential distance applies to, well, just about everything. Almost everything you know, every idea you have, relies on simpler concepts. Even something simple like “France is a country” relies on simpler concepts, like what the word “country” means and what it means for something to be a country.

This is one of the biggest difficulties of explaining something. In order to explain something to someone, you need to build off the concepts they already have and start with the most basic concepts they don’t already have. To do that, you need to figure out which concepts are which.

That’s not always easy, because some of the concepts you already know might seems so obvious to you that you don’t realize you need to explain them. If you’re trying to explain Newtonian physics to a flat-earther, you might not realize you need to explain what the word “down” means.

It’s even harder when you’re writing a blog on the internet, trying to explain something to a faceless audience. Everyone has a different set of concepts they’re starting with, so no single explanation will work for everyone. If you start with concepts that are too advanced, then you won’t reach people who don’t already know the starting concepts. And if you start with concepts too simple, you’ll come across as boring or condescending to other people.

What’s more, for many topics the foundational concepts might not be straightforward facts, but controversial opinions. For example, utilitarian and deontological ethics are based on two very different ideas of what the words “good” and “right” mean. In such cases, it’s very common for people to talk past each other, because they don’t realize their basic assumptions are different.

Fruitful communication relies on finding and bridging that inferential distance. I don’t know of any reliable way of doing that. My only advice is listen and don’t assume you know what your interlocuter means.