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  1. Sarah K. Paul

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee561

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Paul, S. K. 2013. Intention. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


G. E. M. Anscombe (1958) famously argued that it is not profitable to do moral philosophy until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology (see Anscombe, G. E. M.). The investigation of what we are morally permitted to do is integrally bound up with the puzzle of what it is to act. Intentional actions are paradigm objects of moral evaluation; therefore, grasping what it is to act is part of understanding and justifying such evaluation. In turn, the study of intentional action is integrally bound up with the notion of intention. What is done intentionally stands in some relation to the intention with which one acts: the very same physical event of an arm rising might on one hand be an unintentional spasm, and on the other any of the intentional actions of hailing a taxi, voting, stretching, or signaling for the revolution to begin. And in addition to contributing to the determination of what is done, the intention with which an action was performed may influence our moral assessment of that action. An account of the nature of intention and its relation to intentional action is thus highly relevant for moral philosophy.


  • ethics;
  • philosophy;
  • philosophy of mind