By the fundamental theorem of algebra, the algebraic closure $\mathbb{K}$ of $\mathbb{Q}$ decomposes as $\mathbb{K} = F \oplus i F$ where $F = \mathbb{R} \cap \mathbb{K}$ (the intersection is in $\mathbb{C}$). I want to know if there is a purely algebraic way to characterize $F$, i.e. without invoking any analysis, topology, or transcendental number theory. I am asking this because I noticed that it is often convenient when working with examples in characteristic 0 algebraic number theory to give preference to the real roots of a polynomial, and I am wondering if there is a canonical algebraic way to formulate this preference. It doesn't seem like an object built out of lots and lots of transcendental extensions should be so fundamental to purely algebraic examples.
Is there a purely algebraic way to distinguish between the splitting fields of $x^2 + 1$ 2$and$x^2 - 1$2$?