1.Consider triangularity and trilaterality in a closed plane rectilinear figure. There's obviously a conceptual distinction between them. Trilaterality is not the same thing as triangularity. It's a matter of sides, not angles. But there is, to adapt and extend Descartes's terms, no real distinction between them (Descartes 1644: 1.213–15). Neither, that is, can exist without the other also existing. They can't possibly exist apart. They can't exist apart ‘outside our thought’, as opposed to merely ‘in our thought’ (Descartes 1645–46: 3.280–1). They can be genuinely distinguished or held apart in thought, but can't exist apart in concrete reality.1

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A real distinction is not a matter of what things actually do exist separately, in reality, at any given time, but a matter of what things can exist separately, a matter of what is possible as a matter of objective fact....

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