1. Consider a circle. It has both a radius and a circumference. There is obviously a real distinction between the properties having a radius and having a circumference. This is not because, when confining ourselves to circles,1having a radius can ever exist apart from having a circumference. A real distinction does not depend on that. Descartes thought that a real distinction between x and y meant that x could exist without y or vice versa, if only by the power of God. But Descartes was wrong. Separable existence is a sufficient but not necessary condition of there being a real distinction. The difference between a real and a conceptual distinction derives from medieval philosophy. Aquinas, for one, held that things can be really distinct even though not separable (the form and matter of a material substance or its essence and existence, for example).2

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