1

This is the sentence that I'm trying to understand, written around 100 years ago:

Material possessions, in fact or in desire, dominate our outlook, usually to the exclusion of all generous and creative impulses.

You know that "in fact" can mean actually or as a matter of fact. But when "in desire" comes with "in fact" in this way I can't be sure of the meaning of either of them. Also, I wasn't able to find any definition for "in desire" in any dictionary that I looked it up in.

Maybe part of the problem arises from the fact that I'm not sure of the meaning of "outlook" here. To me, either of these two dictionary definitions for "outlook" could be acceptable here:

  1. a person's point of view or attitude to life
  2. the prospect for the future

(definitions from Concise Oxford English Dictionary)

3

In this instance, in fact means actual (although Cambridge only gives actually), and outlook means attitude to life. In desire just means desired. So, we could rewrite it as:

Material possessions, actual or desired, dominate our attitude to life, usually to the exclusion of all generous and creative impulses.

A more understandable paraphrase might be:

Material possessions, whether we have them or merely want them, dominate our attitude to life, usually to the exclusion of all generous and creative impulses.


in fact

actually:

  • He was in fact near death by the time they reached him.

Cambridge Dictionary

outlook noun (OPINION) [ C usually singular ]

a person's way of understanding and thinking about something:

  • He has a fairly positive outlook on life.

Cambridge Dictionary

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