INTENTION

b
G. E. M. ANSCOMBE
SECOND EDITION
HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Cambridge, Massachusetrs
London, England
Copyright © 1957. 196
3
by G. E. M. Anscombe
All rights reserved
Primed in the United States of America
Originally published in England in 1957 by Basil Blackwell.
First Harvard University Press paperback edition. 2OOO
Cataloging-in-l'lIblicJtion Oara is available (rom rhe Library of Congress.
lSUI 0-674-0039
9
-
3
CONTENTS
§
page
I. The subject introduced under three heads: expression
of intention for the future, intentional action, and
intention in acting. I
z. Intuitive understanding of the diference beteen
, prediction' and 'expression of intention ' rejected
as a foundation for a philosophical account of expres­
sions of intention. Prediction defned so as to com­
prise orders and expressions of intention as well as
estimates of the future. The falsity of expressions of
intention in the simple future tense (a) as lying ad (b)
as falsity because the intention is not carried out.
I
3. Usefulness of considering the verbal expression of
intention for the future in order to avoid various ded
ends. Uselessness of an introspective explanation of
intention. Expressions of intentions distinguished
from estimates of the future by the justifction, i ay.
given for them.
J
4. Are there any statements of the form 'A intends X •
which c be made with far certainty? Descriptions
of a man's actions often descriptions truly substitutable
for
'
X ' in 'A intends X '4 Reasons why we suppose a
man the sole authority on his own intentions.
7
5
.
Intentional actions defned as tose to whi9 a certain
sense of the question 'Why?' is given appliction.
Difculty of defning the relevant sense and danger of
moving in a circle in our explanations of ' reason for
acting' and 'action'. 'I knocked the cup of the tble
because I was startled ' gives an answer to a question
, Wy? ' about something done.
9
6. The question 'Why ? ' is refused applcation by the
answer 'I did not know I was doing that'. The
same action c have many descriptions, in some of
which the agent knows it and in some not. J J
IV
INTENTION
§
page
7.
The question also refused applcation when the action
was involuntary; but this notion cannot be introduced
without treating as solved the very kind of problem
we are discussing. Difculties of the notion 'in-
voluntary'.
I Z
8. 'Non-obserational knowledge ' introduced as e.g.
the knowledge one has of some of one's own move­
ments. There is also non-observational knowledge of
the causation of a movement, as when I say why I gave
a start. We can defne one class of involuntary move­
ments without begging any questions, as the class of
movements known without observation, but where
there is no room for non-observational knowledge of
causalty: e.g. the muscular spasm one sometimes has
in dropping of to sleep. 1
3
9. I one sense of ' Why? ' the answer mentions evidence;
but an answer to a question ' Why?' about an action,
which does not mention evidence, does not therefore
necessarily give a reason for acting. The cases where
it was dif cult to distinguish a cause from a reason
turn out to be ones where there is non-obserational
knowledge of the causation. I 5
roo This kind of causation labelled 'mental causalty '.
Mental causes should be distinguished from motives
of actions and objects of feelings. 16
1 I. And also from intentions with which a person acts, even
though these may be expressed in the form' I wanted
. . . ' Mental causality is not important in itself, but it
is important to make these distinctions. 17
12. Motives have been sharply distinguished from inten­
tions by philosophers, and described as causes.
Popularly motive and intention are not so distinct; but
'motive' is a wider notion than ' intention '. A motive
is not a cause at all. I 8
1
3
. Among motives that are not intentions for the future
we c distinguish between backward-looking motives
like revenge (I killed him because he killed my brother)
CONTENTS ¶
§
page
and motive-in-general (He did it out of friendship).
Motive-in-general can also be called ' interpretative'
motive. 20
14. What distinguishes backward-looking motives from
mental causes? The notions of good and harm are
involved in them.
21
1 �. In some cases the distinction between a mental cause
and a reason is not sharp-E.g. ' I put it down because
he told me to .
2
3
16. Summary of results reached so far.
� 7. The question • Why?' is not refused application
when the answer is e.g. ' For no particular reason' or
'I don't know why I did it '. Consideration of the
latter answer.
2 �
18. The fact that' For no particular reason' is a possible
answer to the question ' Why? ' about an action does
not shew that this answer always makes sense. But
when we speak of it as not making sense, we mean
that we cannot understand the man who says it, rather
than that 'a form of words is excluded from the
language '. The question 'Wy? ' identifed as one
expecting an answer in the range we have described,
which range we use to defne the class of intentional
actions.
26
1 9
. We do not mention any extra feature attaching to an
action at the time it is done by calling it intentional.
Proof of this by supposing there is such a feature.
Z 8
20. Discussion whether intentional actions could still have
the characteristic of being intentional although there
were no such thing as expression of intention for the
future, or further intention with whch one acts. There
would be no such thing as our question ' Why? ' or
intentional action if the only answer were: 'For no
particular reason '- 3
0
vi
INTENTION
§
page
2 I. Criticism of the Aristotelian proof of a fnal end for a
man's actions. Still, we can now see that some chains
of reasons for acting must occur if there is such a thing
as intentional action at all. 33
22. Discussion of intention with which, when ths men­
tions something future. In order for it to be possible
to say that an agent does P in order that Q, he must
treat an acknowledgement of ' But if P, Q won't
happen' as incompatible with his having that intention
in acting. 34
23. Is there any description which is the description of a
intentional action when intentional action occurs ? An
example is invented in which to examine the question:
a man who moves his arm in pumping water to replen­
ish a house water-supply to poison the inabitants and
is also doing other things with the pump handle at the
same time. Any true descriptions of what he is doing
which satisfy our criteria, are descriptions of inten­
tional actions. Are there as many actions and as many
intentons as there are such descrptions ? 3
7
24. Difculties. If ' he is poisoning te inabitants' is one
of these descriptions, when does he do this ? How is
moving his arm up and down an act of poisoning the
inhabitants? 4
Ï
2 �. Supposiflg the man to know the water will poison the
inhabitants, but to say ' I did't care about that, I was
only doing my job of pumping " this answ� does not
fall within the range of answers to ' Wy? ' by which
we have defed intentional action. Can one determine
one's intentions just by what one says they are ? The
interest of a man's intentions, apart from what he
actually did. 4
1
26. Answer to the questions of §z3. The A-D order:
i. e. the order of descriptions of an action as intentional,
such that each term of the series can be said to be an
intention in the action as described by the previous
term, and te last term an intention of the action as
described by the frst or any intermediate term. 4�
CONTENTS vii
§
page
27·
Is there ever any place for an interior act of intention,
which really determines what is or is not going on
under the title ' such-and-such a kind of action ' ?
4
7
28. Further enquiry into non-observational knowledge.
Knowledge of one's own intentional actions-I can
say what I am doing without looking to see.
4
9
29·
But must there not be two objects of knowledge-what
I am 'doing', i.e. my intention, and what is actually
taking place, which can only be given by obseration?
Philosophical views on will and intention which have
arisen from this problem. 51
3
0
. An example to prove that it is wrong to try and push
the real intention, or act of will, back to something
initiating the movements that then take place.
5
3
3
1. Attempt at solution by comparing the facts which may
falsify a statement of intentional action to the facts
which may make an order fall to the ground. Inade-
quacy of this solution. 5
4
3
2
• Example of man with a shopping list: the relation of
this list to what he buys, and of what he buys to a list
made by a detective following him. The character
of a discrepancy between the list and what is bought
in the two cases. Is there such a thing as 'practical
knowledge' in the sense of ancient and medieval
phlosophy? 5 6
33·
This notion can ony be understood by frst under-
standig what Aristotle called ' practical reasoning'.
The practical syllogism is not a form of demonstration
of what I ought to do. It is a diferent kind of reason-
ing from that of the proof syllogism, but this has been
misunderstood in moder times.
n
34·
Practical syllogisms are not confned to ones that
look parallel to proof syllogisms. The starting point
for a piece of practical reasoning is something wanted,
and the frst premise mentions something wanted. 62
viii INTENTION
§
3
5 . Occurrence of evaluative terms in the frst premise of
practical syllogisms given by Aristotle. Not every
statement of a reason for acting shews practical
reasoning. 'I want' does not rightly occur in the
premises, but the frst premise must mention some-
page
thing wanted. 63
3
6. In the relevant sense of' wanting' X in 'A wants
X' does not range over all describable objects or
states of afairs. Volition and sense-knowledge cannot
be described independently of one another. Problem
of wanting a wife, and generally of wanting what the
agent does not even suppose to exist yet. 67
37. If a man wants something, he can always be asked what
for, or in what aspect it is desirable; until he gives a
desirabilty-characterisation.
70
38. The question 'What for?' cannot signifcantly be
asked in a continuation of the series of such questions,
once a desirability-characterisation has been reached.
The point illustrated by an example: ' It befts a Nazi
to spend hs last hour exterminating Jews'. This
does not mean that the practical reasoning cannot be
assailed so long as it is not fallacious.
7
2
39. The fact that a desirability-characterisation is required
does not shew that any is compulsive in relation to
wanting. Bonum est multilex.
7
4
40. Comparison of the problem of the relation of ' want­
ing
,
to ' good' with that of the relation of ' judging'
to' true '.
7
6
41. The mark of practical reasoning is that the thing
wanted is at a distance from the particular action. 78
4
2. The' absurdity' of setting practical reasonings out in
full. The point is to describe not what (psychologic-
ally) goes on, but an order; the same order as I
described in discussing what' the intentional action'
was. 79
CONTENTS ix
§
page
4
3
·
Contrast between' the stove is burning' and ' the man
is paying his gas bill': enormous apparent com-
plexity of ' doing' in the latter case. 80
44·
Consideration of • If I do this, this will happen, if
that, that' followed by action: cases in which this is,
and in which it is not • practical reasoning '. 80
45·
Practical knowledge considered as the knowledge of
what is done in the man who directs a project without
seeing it. Problem: how is this knowledge, if his orders
do not get carried out? 8
z
4
6
. The description of something as e.g. building a house
or writing on the blackboard employs the concept of
human action, which we have seen to be defned by
means of our question ' Why? ' 8
3
47·
The term ' intentional' relates to a form of desciton
of events. Intention in animals. 84
4
8. Many descriptions of events efected by humans are
formally descriptions of executed intentions. Elucida-
tion of the notion of practical knowledge. 87
4
9
·
Account of • voluntary' action. 89
50. Retur to expression of intention for the future. What
has been said about intention in present action also
applies to future intention. A prediction is an expres-
sion of intention when our question' Why? ' applies
to it. 9
°
p.
Consideration of • I just want to, that's all ' in regard
to an expression of intention for the futre. 9
°
1
z
.
' I am not going to-' as an expression of intention,
and 'I am going to-' as an expression of belief.
Cases where they might occur together.
91
INTRODUCTION
The greater part of what appears here was delvered as a
course of lectures at Oxford in the Hilary Term of 195 7
.
Excerpts,
with small modifcations, comprising the discussion of the difer­
ence between' motive', ' intention' and' mental cause' formed
an Aristotelan Society paper delivered on June 3rd, 195 7. I
am indebted to the Society for permission for a substantial
reprint of that matter. This book assembles the results, so far
as concerns this particular topic, of research begun during my
tenure of the Mary Somerville Research Fellowship at Somerville
College. I wish therefore to express my gratitude to the Donors.
More recently I have been supported by the Rockefeller Founda­
tion, to which an acknowledgment is therefore also due.
Note on the Second Impression
I have made a few alterations; the only ones of any signif­
cance are on pp. 29, 58,
5
9 and 61.
Note on Second Edition
For this edition I have made some small alterations in
§§ 2, 6, 1 7, 33 and 34·
INTENTION
I. Very often, when a man says' I am going to do such­
and-such " we should say that this was an expression of intention.
We also sometimes speak of an action as intentional, and we may
also ask with what intention the thing was done. In each case
we employ a concept of' intention'; now if we set out to describe
this concept, and took only one of these three kinds of statement
as containing our whole topic, we might very likely say things
about what 'intention' means which it would be false to say
in one of the other cases. For example, we might say' Intention
always concerns the future'. But an action can be intentional
without being concerned with the future in any way. Realising
this might lead uS to say that there are various senses of • inten­
tion " and perhaps that it is thoroughly misleading that the word
• intentional' should be connected with the word • intention',
for an action can be intentional without having any intention in
it. Or alternatively we may be tempted to think that only actions
done with certain further intentions ought to be called inten­
tiona. And we may be inclined to say that • intention' has a
dferent sense when we speak of a man's intentions simplciter­
i.e. what he intends to do-and of his intention in doig or
proposing something-what he aims at in it. But in fact it is
implausible to say that the word is equivocal as it occurs in these
dferent cases.
Where we are tempted to speak of • diferent senses' of a
word which is clearly not equivocal, we may infer that we are
in fact pretty much in the dark about the character of the concept
which it represents. There is, however, nothing wrong with
taking a topic piecemeal. I shall therefore begin my enquiry
by considering expressions of intention.
2. The distinction between an expression of intention and
a prediction is generally appealed to as something intuitively
clear. • I a going to be sick • is usually a prediction; • I am going
to take a walk' usually an expression of intention. The dis­
tinction intended is intuitively clear, in the following sense: if
 INTNTION § Â
I say' I am going to fail in this exam. ' and someone says' Surely
you aren't as bad at the subject as that', I may make my meaning
clear by explaining that I was expressing an intention, not giving
an estimate of my chances.
If, however, we ask in philosophy what the diference is
between e.g. 'I am going to be sick ' as it would most usually be
said, and 'I am going to take a walk " as i would most usually
be said, it is not illuminating to be told that one is a prediction
and the other the expression of an intention. For we are really
asking what each of these is. Suppose it is said 'A prediction is a
statement about the future'. This suggests that an expression of
intention is not. It is perhaps the description-or expression-of
a present state of mind, a state which has the properties that
characterise it as an intention. Presumably what these are has
yet to be discovered. But then it becomes difcult to see why
tey should be essentially connected with the future, as te
intention seems to be. No one is likely to believe that it is an
accident, a mere fact of psychology, that those states of mind
which are intentions always have to do with the future, in the
way that it is a fact of racial psychology, as one might say, that
most of the earliest historical traditions concern heroic fgures.
And i you try to make beig concered with the fut ure into
a defg property of intentions, you can be asked what serves
to distinguish this concer with the future from the predictive
concer.
Let us then try to give some account of prediction. The
following seems promising: a man says something with one
infection of the verb in his sentence; later that same thing, only
with a changed infection of the verb, can be called true (or false)
in face of what has happened later.
Now by this criterion, commands and expressions of intention
will also be predictions. In view of the difculties described
above, this may not constitute an objection. Adopting a hint
from Wittgenstein (Philosophical Investigations §§ 629-
3
0) we might
then frst defne prediction in general in some such fashion, and
then, among predictions, distinguish between commands,
expressions of intention, estimates, pure prophecies, etc. The
'intuitively clear' distinction we spoke of turns out to be a
distinction between expressions of intention and estimates. But
INTENTION § 2
a single utterance may function as more than one of these kinds
of prediction. E.g. when a doctor says to a patient in the presence
of a nurse' Nurse will take you to the operatg theatre " this
may function both as an expression of his intention (if it is in
it that his decision as to what shall happen gets expressed) and
as an order, as well as being iformation to the patient; and it is
tis latter in spite of being in no sense an estimate of the future
founded on evidence, nor yet a guess or prophecy; nor does the
patient normally inr the information from the fact that the
doctor said that; he would say that the doctor tol him. This
example shews that the indicative (descriptive, informatory)
character is not the distinctive mark of ' predictions' as opposed
to' expressions of intention " as we might at frst sight have been
tempted to think.
An imperative will be a description of some future action.
addressed to the prospective agent, and cast i a form whose
point in the language is to make the person do what is described.
I say that this is its point in the language. rather than that it is
the purpose of the speaker, partly because the speaker might of
course give an order with some purpose quite other than tat
it should be executed (e.g. so that it should not be executed),
without detriment to its being an order.
Execution-conditions for commands correspond to truth··
conditions for propositions. What are the reasons other than
a dispensable usage for not calling commands true and false
according as they are obeyed or disobeyed?
An order will usually be given with some intention or other,
but is not as such the expression of a volition; it is simply a
description of an action cast in a special form; this form is
sometimes a special infection and sometimes a future tense
which has other uses as well.
Orders are usually criticised for being sound or unsound
rather than for being fulflled or not fulflled; but this does not
serve to distingush orders from estimates of the future, since te
same may hold for estimates of the future, where these are
scientifc. (Unscientfc estimates are of course prased for being
fulflled rather than for being wel-founded, as no one knows
what a good foundation is for an unscientifc estimate-e.g
. a
political one.) But there is a diference between the types of
4
INTENTION § Z
ground on which we call an order, and an estimate of the future,
sound. The reasons justifying an order are not ones suggesting
what is probable, or likely to happen, but e.g. ones suggesting
what it would be good to make happen with a view to an
objective, or with a view to a sound objective. In this regard,
commands and expressions of intention are similar.
It is natural to feel an objection both to calling commands,
and to calling expressions of intention, predictions .. In the case of
commands, the reason lies in the superficial grammar, and just
because of this is more easily disposed of. In the case of inten­
tions, superfcial grammar would rather incline us to accept the
diagnosis, since a common form of expression of intention is a
simple future tense, and indeed, this use of the future tense must
play a dominant part in any child's learning of it. But our
objections are deeper rooted.
If I do not do what I said I would, I am not supposed to have
made a mistake, or even necessarily to have lied; so it seems that
the truth of a statement of intention is not a matter of my doing
what I said. But why should we not say: this only shows that
there are other ways of saying what is not true, besides lying and
being mistaken?
A lie, however, is possible here; and if I lie, what I say is a
lie because of something present, not future. I might even be
lying in saying I was going to do something, though I afterwards
did it. The answer to this is that a lie is an utterance contrary
to one's mind, and one's mind may be either an opinon, or a
mind to make something the case. That a lie is an utterance
contrary to one's mind does not mean that it is - false report of
the contents of one's mind, as when one lies in response to the
query 'A penny for your thoughts '.
One might not have a ' mind' to do something, distinguish­
able from uttering the words. And then, as Quine once put it
(at a philosophical meeting), one might do the thing 'to make an
honest proposition ' of what one had said. For if I don't do
what I said, what I said was not true (though there might not be a
question of my truthfulness in saying it). But the reason why
Quine's remark is a joke is that this falsehood does not neces­
sarily impugn what I sai. In some cases the facts are, so to
speak, impugned for not being in accordance with the words.
INTTION § 2-3
rather than vice versa. This is sometimes so when I change my
mind; but another case of it occurs when e.g. I write someting
other than I think I am writing: as Theophrastus says (Magna
Morala,l 1I89b u), the mistake here is one of performance, not
of judgment. There are other cases too: for example, St. Peter
did not change his mind about denying Christ; and yet it would
not be correct to say he made a lying promise of faithfulness.
A command is essentially a sign (or symbol), whereas an
intention can exist without a symbol; hence we speak of com-
. mads, not of the expression of commanding; but of the expression
of intention. This is another reason for the very natural idea
that in order to understand the expression of intention, we ought
to consider something internal, i.e. what it is an expression of.
This consideration disinclnes us to call it a prediction-Leo a
description of something future. Even though that is just what
, I'll do such-and-such' actually looks like, and even though' I
intend to go for a walk but shall not go for a walk' does sound
in some way contradictory.
Intention appears to be something that we can express, but
which brutes (which e.g. do not give orders) can hae, though
lacking any distinct expression of intention. For a eat's movements
in stalking a bird are hardly to be called an expression of intention.
One might as well call a car's stallng the expression of its being
about to stop. Intention is unlike emotion in this respect, that
the expression of it is purely conventional; we might say' linguis­
tic if we will allow certain bodily movements w��h a conven­
tional meaning to be included in language. Wittgenstei seems
to me to have gone wrong in speaking of the' natural expression
of an itention' (Philosophical InvestigatiOls § 647).
3. We need a more fruitful line of enquiry than that of
considering the verbal expression of intention, or of trying to
consider what it is an expression of. For if we consider just te
verbal expression of intention, we arrive only at its being a­
queer-species of prediction; and if we try to look for what it is
an expression of, we are likely to fnd ourselves in one or other of
several dead ends, e.g.: psychological jargon about' drives' and
" ^88umÍnv th8t Wc 8tc cOttcctlytOld th8t ¯hcOpht88tu8 W88 thc 8uthOt·
6 INTENTION § 3
• sets'; reduction of intention to a species of desire, i.e. a kind of
emotion; or irreducible intuition of the meaning of I intend '.
Looking at the verbal expression of intention is indeed of use
for avoiding these particular dead-ends. They are all reached in
consequence of leaving the distinction between estimation of
the future and expression of intention as something that just is
intuitively obvious. A man says' I am going for a walk' and we
say ( that is an expression of intention, not a prediction'. But
how do we know? If we asked him, no doubt he would tell us;
but what does he know, and how? Wittgenstein has shown the
impossibility of answering this question by saying' He recognizes
himself as having, or as having had, an intention of going for a
walk, or as having meant the words as an expression of intention '.
If this were correct, there would have to be room for the possi­
bility that he misrecognizes. Further, when we remember having
meant to do something, what memory reveals as having gone on
in our consciousness is a few scanty items at most, which by no
means add up to such an intention; or it simply prompts us
to use the words' I meant to .. . " without even a mental picture
of which we judge the words to be an appropriate description.
The distinction, then, cannot be left to be intuitively obvious,
except where it is used to answer the question in what sense a
man meant the form of words' I am going to . . . ' on a particular
occasion.
We might attempt to make the distinction out by saying:
an expression of intention is a description of something future
in which the speaker is some sort of agent, which description he
justifes (if he does justify it) by reasons for acting, sc. reasons
why it would be useful or attractive if the description came true,
not by evidence that it is true. But having got so far, I can see
nowhere else to go along this line, and the topic remains rather
mystifying. I once saw some notes on a lecture of Wittgenstein
in which he imagined some leaves blown about by the wind and
saying , Now I'll go this way . .. now I'll go that way' as the
wind blew them. The analogy is usatisfactory in apparently
assigning no role to these predictions other than that of an
unecessary accompaniment to te movements of the leaves.
But it might be replied: what do you mean by an ' unnecessary'
accompaniment? If you mean one in the absence of which the
INTENTION �
3
-4
7
movements of the leaves would have been just the same, the
analogy is certainly bad. But how do you know what the move­
ments of the leaves would have been if they had not been accom­
panied by those thoughts? If you mean that you could calculate
their movements just by knowing the speed and direction of the
winds and the weight and other properties of the leaves, are you
insisting that such calculations could not include calculations
of their thoughts ?-Wittgenstein was discussing free will when
he produced this analogy; now the objection to it is not that it
assigns a false role to our intentions, but only that it does not
describe their role at all; this, however, was not its purpose.
That purpose was clearly some denial of free will, whether we
take the wind as a symbol for the physical forces that afect us,
or for God or fate. Now it may be that a correct description of
the role of intention in our actions will not be relevant to the
question of free will; in any case I suspect that this was Wittgen­
stein's view; therefore in giving this anti-freewill picture he was
at liberty simply to leave the role of intention quite obscure.
Now our account of expressions of intention, whereby they
are distinguished from estimates of the future, leaves one in
very much the same position as does the picture of the wind
blowing the leaves. People do in fact give accounts of future
events in which they are some sort of agents; they do not justify
these accounts by producing reasons why they should be believed
but, if at all, by a diferent sort of reason; and these accounts are
very often correct. This sort of account is called an expression of
intention. It just does occur in human language. If the concept
of' intention ' is one's quarry, this enquiry has produced results
which are indeed not false but rather mystifying. 'hat is meant
by , reason' here is obviously a fruitful line of enquiry; but I
prefer to consider this frst in connexion with the notion of
intentional action.
4. I therefore tur to a new line of enquiry: how do we
tell someone's intentions? or: what kind of true statements
about people'S itentions can we certay make, and how do we
know that they are tre? That is to say, is it possible to fnd types
of statement of the form 'A intends X' which we can say have a
8 INTENTION § 4
great deal of certainty? Well, if you want to say at least some true
things about a man's intentions, you will have a strong chance of
success if you mention what he actually did or is doing. For
whatever else he may intend, or whatever may be his intentions in
doing what he does, the greater number of the things which
you would say straight of a man did or was doing, will be things
he intends.
I UÎ referring to the sort of things you would say in a law
court is you were a witness and were asked what a man was doing
when you saw him. That is to say, in a very large number of
cases, your selection from the immense variety of true statements
about him which you might make would coincide with what he
could say he was doing, perhaps even without reflection, certainly
without adverting to observation. I am sitting in a chair writing,
and anyone grown to the age of reason in the same world would
know this as soon as he saw me, and in general it would be his
frst account of what I was doing; if this were something he
arrived at with difculty, and what he knew straight of were
precisely how I was afecting the acoustic properties of the room
(to me a very recondite piece of information), then communication
between us would be rather severely impaired.
In this way, with a view to shewing roughly the range of
things to be discovered here, I can take a short cut here, and
discuss neither how I am to select from the large number of true
statements I could make about a person, flor what is involved in
the existence of such a straight-of description as ' She is sitting
in a chair and writing '. (Not that this does not raise very inter­
esting questions. See Philosophical Investiations, p. 59, (b): ' I see a
picture: it shows a man leaning on a stick and going up a steep
path. How come? Couldn't it look like that if he were sliding
downhill in that position? Perhaps a Martian would give that
description.' Et passim.) All I am here concerned to do is note
the fact: we can simply say 'Look at a man and say what he is
doing' -i.e. say what would immediately come to your mind as
a report to give someone who could not see him and who wanted
to know what was to be seen in that place. In most cases what
you will say is that the man himself knows; and again in most,
though indeed in fewer, cases you will be reporting not merely
what he is doing, but OÑ intention of his-namely, to do that
INTENTION § 4-5
9
thing. What is more, if it is not an intention of his, this will for
the most part be clear without asking him.
Now it can easily seem that in general the question what Û
man's intentions are is only authoritatively settled by him. One
reason for this is that in general we are interested, not just in Û
man's intention of doing what he does, but in his intention in
doing it, and this can very often not be seen from seeing what he
does. Another is that in general the question whether he intends
to do what he does just does not arise (because the answer is
obvious); whle if it does arise, it is rather often settled by asking
him. And, fnally, a man can form an intention which he then
does nothing to carry out, either hecause he is prevented or
because he changes his mind: but the intention itself can be
complete, although it remains a purely interior thing. All this
conspires to make us think that if we want to know a man's
intentions it is into the contents of his mind, and only into these,
that we must enquire; and hence, that if we wish to understand
what intention is, we must be investigating something whose
existence is purely in the sphere of the mind; and that although
intention issues in actions, and the way this happens also presents
interesting questions, still what physically takes place¡ i.e. what
a man actually does, is the very last thing we need consider in
our enquiry. Whereas I wish to say that it is the frst. With this
prea
m
ble to go on to the second head of the division that I made
in § I : intentional Ûction.
5. What disting:tishes actions which are intentional from
those which are not? The answer that I shÂll suggest is that
they are the actions to which Û certain Jense of the quest ion
, Why?' is gi ve: application; the sense is of course that in
which the answer, if
p
ositive, gives a reason [or acting. But this
is not a sufcient statement, because the question" What is the
relevant sense of the question Why? ' " and" What is meant by
, reason for acting
,
? " are one and the same.
To see the difculties here, consider the question, , Why did
you knock the cup of the table?' answered by ' I thought I
saw a face at the window and it made me jump '. Now, so far I
have only characterised reason for acting by opposing it to
evidence for supposing the thing will take place--but the' reason
10 INTENTION §,
here was not evidence that I was going to knock the cup of
the table. Nor can we say that since it mentions something
previous to the action, this wil be a cause rather than a reason;
for if you ask 'Why did you kill him? ' the answer ' He killed
my father ' is surely a reason rather than a cause, but what it
mentions is previous to the action. It is true that we don't
ordinarily think of a case like giving a sudden start when we
speak of a reason for acting.
"
Giving a sudden st'rt ", someone
might say, " is not acting in the sense suggested by the expression
• reason for acting '. Hence, though indeed we readily say e.g.
• What was the reason for your starting so violently?' this is
totally unlike' What is your reason for excluding so-and-so from
your will? ' or ' What is your reason for sending for a taxi?'"
But what is the diference? In neither case is the answer a piece
of evidence. Why is giving a start or gasp not an 'action',
while sending for a taxi, or crossing the road, is one? The answer
cannot be "Because the answer to the question 'why?' may
give a reaon in the latter cases", for the answer may' give a
reason' in the former cases too; and we cannot say "Ah, but not a
reason for acting"; we should be going round in circles. We need
to fnd the diference between the two kinds of ' reason' without
talking about' acting'; and if we do, perhaps we shall discover what
is meant by 'acting' when it is said with this special emphasis.
It will hardly be enlightening to say: in the case of the sudden
start the ' reason ' is a caue; the topic of causalty is in a state of
too great confusion; all we know is that this is one of the places
where we do use the word' cause'. But we also know that this
is a rather strange case of causality; the subject is able to give the
cause of a thought or feeling or bodily movement in the same kind
of way as he is able to state the place of his pain or the position
of his limbs.
Nor can we say: "-\Vell, the' reason' for a movement is a
cause, and not a reason in the sense of ' reason for acting "
when the movement is involuntary; it is a reason, as opposed to a
cause, when the movement is voluntary and intentional.' This
is partly because in any case the object of the whole enquiry is
really to delineate such concepts as the voluntary and the inten­
tional, and partly because one can also give a ' reason' which is
only a ' cause' for what is voluntary and intentional. E.g. " Why
INTENTION § 5-6 ÎÂ
are you walking up and down like that ?" -" It's that military
band; it excites me ". Or" What made you sign the document
at last ? "-" The thought: 'It is my duty ' kept hammering
away in my mind until I said to myself ' I can do no other ',
ad so signed."
It is very usual to hear that such-and-such are what we cal
reasons for acting ' and that it is 'rational ' or 'what we
call rational ' to act for reasons; but these remarks are :sually
more than half moralistic in meaning (and moralism, as Bradley
remarked, is bad for thinking); and for the rest they leave our
conceptual problems untouched, while pretending to give a
quick account. In any case, this pretence is not even plausible,
since such remarks contain no hint of what it is to act for reasons.
6. To clarify the proposed account, "Intentional actions
are ones to which a certain sense of the question ' why? ' has
application", I will both explain this sense and describe cases
shewing the queston not to have application. I will do the second
job i two stages because what I say in the frst stage of it will be
of use in helping to explain the relevant sense of the question
'why ? '.
Ths question is refused application by the answer: '. I was
not aware I was doing that'. Such an answer is, not indeed a
proof (since it may be a lie), but a claim, that the question' Why
did you do it (are you doing it) ? " in the required sense, has no
application. It canot be plausibly given in every case; for
example, if you saw a man sawing a plank and asked' Why are
you sawing that plank? " and he replied ' I didn't know I was
sawing a plank ', you would have to cast about for what he might
mean. Possibly he did not know the word ' plank ' before, and
chooses this way of expressing that. But this question as to what
he might mean need not arise at all-.g. if you ask someone why
he is standing on a hose-pipe and he says' I didn't know I was '.
Since a single action can have many diferent descriptions,
e.g. 'sawing a plank ', 'sawing oak " 'sawing one of Smith's
planks', 'making a squeaky noise with the saw ', 'makng a
great deal of sawdust ' and so on and so on, it is important to
notce tat a man may know that he is doing a thing under one
description, and not under another. Not every case of this is a
12
INTENTION § 7
case of his knowing that he is doing one part of what he is doing
and not another (e.g. he knows he is sawing but not that he is
making a squeaky noise with the saw). He may know that he is
sawing a plank, but not that he is sawing an oak plank or Smith's
plank; but sawing an oak plank or Smith's plank is not somethng
else that he is doing besides just sawing the plank that he is
sawing. For this reason, the statement that a man knows he is
doing X does not imply the statement that, concerning anything
which is also his doing X, he knows that he is doing that thig.
So to say that a man knows he is doing X is to give a description
of what he is doing under which he knows it. Thus, when a man
says' I was not aware that I was doing X ',and so claims that the
question ' Why? ' has no application, he cannot always be con­
futed by the fact that he was attentive to those of his own pro­
ceedings in which doing X consisted.
7. It is also clear that one is refusing application to the
question
'
Why?' (in the relevant sense) if one says: 'It was
involuntary ', even though the action was something of whic
one was aware. But I cannot use this as it stands, since the notion
of the involuntary pretty obviously covers notions of exactly
the type that a philosophical enquiry into intention ought to be
elucidating.
Here, digressing for a moment, I should like to reject a
fashionable view of the terms 'voluntary ' and 'involuntary',
which says they are appropriately used only when a person has
done something untoward. If anyone is tempted by this view, he
should consider that physiologists are interested in voluntary
action, and that they are not giving a special technical sense to
the word. If you ask them what their criterion is, they say that
if they are dealing with a grown human they ask him, and if
with an animal, they take movements in which the animal is e.g.
trying to get at something, say food. That is, the movement by
which a dog cocked its ear at a sudden sound would not be used
as an example.
This does not mean that every description of action in
which its voluntariness can be considered is of interest to physio­
logists. Of course they are only interested in bodily movements.
We can also easily get confused by the fact that' involuntary'
INTENTION §
7
-8
nelther means simply non-voluntary, nor has an unproblematic
sense of its own. In fact this pair of concepts is altogether very
confusing. Consider the four following examples of the involun­
tary:
(a) The peristaltic movement of the gut.
(b). The odd sort of jerk or j ump that one's whole body
sometimes gives when one is falling asleep.
(c) 'He withdrew his hand in a movement of involuntary
recoil.'
(d) , The involuntary beneft I did him by a stroke I meant to
harm him. '
Faced with examples lke (c) and (d), how can I introduce' It
was involuntary ' as a form for rejecting the question' Why ? ' in
the special sense which I want to elucidate-when the whole
purpose of the elucidation is to give an account of the concept
, intentional ' ? Obviously I cannot. There is however a class
of the things that fall under the concept ' involuntary ', which
it is possible to introduce without begging any questions or
assuming that we understand notions of the very type I am
professing to investigate. Example (b) belongs to this class,
which is a class of bodily movements in a purely physical descrip­
tion. Other examples are tics, refex kicks from the knee, the
lift of the arm from one's side after one has leaned heavily with
it up against a wall.
8. What is required is to describe this class without using
any notions like 'intended ' or 'willed ' or 'voluntary ' and
, involuntary '. This can be done as follows: we frst point out
a particular class of things which are true of a man: namely the
class of things which he knows without obserlation. E.g. a man
usually knows the position of his limbs without observation. It
is witout observation, because nothing shews him the position
of his limbs; it is not as if he were going by a tingle in his knee,
which is the sign that it is bent and not straight. Where we can
speak of separately describable sensations, having which is in
some sense our criterion for saying something, then we can
speak of obsering that thing; but that is not generally so when
we kow the position of our limbs. Yet, without prompting, we
can sq it. I say however that we know it and not merely can sq
INTENTION § 8
it, because there is a possibility of being right or wrong: tere
is point in speaking of knowledge only where a contrast exists
between ' he knows' and ' he (merely) thinks he knows '. Thus,
although there is a similarity between giving the position of one's
limbs and giving the place of one's pain, I should wish to say
that one ordinarily knows the position of one's limbs, without
observation, but not that being able to say where one feels pain
is a case of something known. This is not because the place of
pain (the feeling, not the damage) has to be accepted by someone
1 tell it to; for we can imagine circumstances in which it is not
accepted. As e.g. if you say that your foot, not your hand, is
very sore, but it is your hand you nurse, and you have no fear
of or objection to an inconsiderate handling of your foot, and
yet you point to your foot as the sore part: and so on. But here
we should say that it was dfcult to guess what you could mean.
Whereas if someone says that his leg is bent when it is straight,
this may be surprising but is not particularly obscure. He is
wrong in what he says, but not unintelligible. So I call this sort
of being able to say ' knowledge' and not merel • being able to
say'.
Now the class of things known without observation is of
general interest to our enquiry because the class of intentional
actions is a sub-class of it. I have already said that • I was not
aware I was doing that ' is a rejection of the question • Why? '
whose sense we are trying to get at; here I can further say • I
knew I was doing that, but ony because I observed it ' would
also be a rejection of it. E.g. if one noticed that one operated the
trafic lights in crossing a road.
But the class of things known without observation is also of
special interest in this part of our enquiry, because it makes it
possible to describe the particular class of ' involuntary actions '
which I have so far indicated just by giving a few examples:
these are actions like the example (b) above, and our task is to
mark of this class without begging the questions we are trying
to answer. Bodily movements like te peristaltic movement of
the gut are involuntary; but these do not interest us, for a man
does not know his body is making them except by obseration,
inference, etc. The involuntary that interests us is restricted
to the class of thngs known without obseration; as you would
INTENTION § 8-9
know even with your eyes shut that you had kicked when the
doctor tapped your knee, but cannot identfy a sensation by
which you know it. If you speak of ' that sensation which one
has in refex kicking, when one's knee is tapped " this is not like
e.g. ' the sensation of going down in a lift '. For though one
might say , I thought I had given a refex kick, when I hadn't
moved ' one would never say e. g. ' Being told startling news
gives one that sensation' : the sensation is not separable, as the
sensation ' like going down in a lift ' is.
Now among things known without observation must be
included the causes of some movements. E.g. ' Why did you
j ump back suddenly like that ? ' ' The leap and loud bark of that
crocodile made me jump '. (1 am not saying I did not observe
the crocodile barking; but I did not observe that making me
jump.) But in examples lke (b) the cause of motion is known
on! through observation.
This class of involuntary actions, then, is the clss of move­
ments of the body, in a purely physical description, which are
known witout obseration, and where there is no such thing
as a cause known without observation. (Thus my jump back­
wards at the leap and bark of the crocodile does not belong to
this subclass of involuntary actions.) This subclass can be
described without our frst having clarifed the concept ' involun­
tary '. To assign a movement to it will be to reject the question
' Why? '
9. I frst, in considering expressions of intention, said that
they were predictions justifed, i at ali, by a reason for acting,
as opposed to a reason for thinking them true. So I here already
distinguished a sense of ' Why? " in which the answer mentions
evidence. ' There will be an eclipse tomorrow '.-' Why ? '
' Because . . . '-and an answer is the reason for thinking so. Or
' There was an ancient British camp here '. ' Why?'-and an
answer is the reason for thinking so. But as we have already
noted, an answer to the question ' Why ?' which does not give
reason for thinking the thng true does not thereore give a reason
for acting. It may mention a cause, and this is far from what we
want. However we noticed that there are contexts in which
there is some difculty in describing the distinction between a
1 6 INTENTION § 9-10
cause and a reason. As e.g. when we give a ready answer to the
question ' Why dd you knock the cup of the table ? '-' I saw
such-and-such and it !ade !e jU!p. '
Now we can see that the cases where this difculty arises are
just those where the cause itself
q
ua cause (or perhaps one should
rather say: the causation itself) is in the class of things known
without observation.
10. I will call the type of cause in question a 'mental cause '.
Mental causes are possible, not only for actions ( The martial
music excites me, that is why I walk up and down') but also for
feelings and even thoughts. In considering actions, it is important
to distinguish between mental causes and motives; in considering
feelings, such as fear or anger, it is important to distinguish
between mental causes and objects of feeling. To see this, con­
sider the following cases :
A child saw a bit of red stuf on a turn in a stairay and asked
what it was. He thought his nurse told him it was a bit of Satan
and felt dreadful fear of it. (No doubt she said it was a bit of
satin.) What he was frightened of was the bit of stuf; the cause
of his fright was his nurse's remark. The object of fear may be
the cause of fear, but, as Wittgenstein1 remarks, is not as suh
the cause of fear. (A hideous face appearing at the window would
of course be both cause and object, and hence the two are easily
confused). Or again, you may be angry at someone's action,
when what maks you angry is some reminder of it, or someone's
telling you of it.
This sort of cause of a feeling or reaction may be reported
by the person himself, as well as recognised by someone else,
even when it is not the same as the object. Note that this sort of
causality or sense of ' causality' is so far from accommodating
itself to Hume's explanations that people who believe that Hume
pretty well dealt with the topic of causality would entirely leave
it out of their calculations ; if their attention were drawn to it they
might insist that the word ' cause' was inappropriate or was
quite equivocal. Or conceivably they might try to give a Humian
account of the matter as far as concerned the outside observer's
recognition of the cause; but hardly for the patient's.
" Philosophial Inesligalions § 476.
INTENTION § I I
1
7
I I . Now one might think that when the question ' Why? '
is answered by giving the intention with which a person acts
-for example by mentioning something future-this is also a case
of a mental cause. For couldn't it be recast in the form: ' Because
I wanted . . . ' or ' Out of a desire that . . . '? If a feeling of
desire to eat apples afects me and I get up and go to a cupboard
where I think there are some, I might answer the question what
Jed to this action by mentioning the desire as having made me
. . . etc. But it is not in all cases that I did so and so in order
to . . . ' can be backed up by , Ifll a desire that . . . '. I may e.g.
simply hear a knock on the door and go downstairs to open it
without experiencing any such desire. Or suppose I feel an
upsurge of spite against someone and destroy a message he has
received so that he shall miss an appointment. If I describe
ths by saying I wanted to make him miss that appointment ',
this does not necessarily mean that I had the thought If I do
ths, he will . . . ' and that afected me with a desire of bringing
it about, which le up to my doing so. This may have happened,
but need not. It could be that all that happened was this : I read
the message, had the thought ' That unspeakable man I ' with
feelngs of hatred, tore the message up, and laughed. Then i
the question ' Why did you do that ? ' is put by someone who
makes it clear that he wants me to mention the mental causes­
e.g. what went on in my mnd and issued in the action-I should
perhaps give this account; but normally the reply would be no
such thing. That partcular enquiry is not very often made. Nor
do I wish to say that it always has an answer in cases where it
can be made. One might shrug or say ' I don't know that there
was any defite history of the kind you mean " or ' It merely
occurred to me. . . . '
A ' mental cause " of course, need not be a mental event, i. e.
a thought or feeling or image; it might be a knock on the door.
But if it is not a mental event, it must be something perceived
by the person afected-e.g. the knock on the door must be heard
-so if in this sense anyone wishes to say it is always a mental
event, I have no obj ection. A mental cause is what someone
would describe if he were asked the specifc question: what
produced this action or thought or feeling on your par: what did
you see or hear or feel, or what ideas or images cropped up in
1 8
INTENTION § I I-I2
your mind, and led up to it ? I have isolated this notion of a
mental cause because there is such a thing as this question with
this sort of answer, and because I want to distinguish it from the
ordinary senses of ' motive ' and intention ', rather than because
it is in itself of very great importance; for I believe that it is of
very little. But it is important to have a clear idea of it, partly
because a very natural conception of e motive ' is that it is what
moves (the very word suggests that)-glossed as ' what calses ' a
man's actions etc. And ' what causes ' them is perhaps then
thought of as an event that brings the efect about-though how
it does-i.e. whether it should be thought of as a kind of pushing
in another medium, or in some other way-is of course completely
obscure.
I Å= In philosophy a distinction has sometimes been drawn
between our motives and our intentions in acting as if they were
quite diferent things. A man's intention is what he aims at or
chooses ; his motive is what determines the aim or choice; and I
suppose that ' determines ' must here be another word for
' causes '.
Popularly motive and intention are not treated as so distinct
in meaning. E.g. we hear of ' the motive of gain ' ; some philo­
sophers have wanted to say that such an expression must be
elliptical ; gain must be the intention, and desire ofgain the motive.
Asked for a motive, a man might say ' I wanted to . . . " which
would please such philosophers ; or ' I did it in order to . . . "
which would not ; and yet the meaning of the two phrases is here
identical. When a man's motives are called good, this may be
in no way distinct from calling his intentions good-e.g. he
only wanted to make peace among his relations.
Nevertheless there is even popularly a distincticn between the
meaning of ' motive ' and the meaning of ' intention '. E.g. if a
man kills someone, he may be said to have done it out of love and
pity, or to have done it out of hatred; these might indeed be cast
in the forms to release him from this awful sufering ', or to
get rid of the swine ' ; but though these are forms of expression
suggesting objectives, they are perhaps expressive of the spirit
in which the man killed rather than descriptive of the end to
which the killing was a means-a future state of afairs to be
INTENTION § 1 2
produced by the killing. And this shows us part of the dis­
tinction that there is between the popular senses of motive and
intention. We should say: popularly, ' motive for an action ' has
a rather wider and more diverse application than ' intention with
which the action was done ' .
When a man says what his motive was, speaking popularly,
and in a sense in which ' motive ' is not interchangeable with
, intention ', he is not giving a ' mental cause ' in the sense that
I have given to that phrase.-The fact that the mental causes were
such-and-such may indeed help to make his claim intelligible.
And further, though he may say that his motive was this or that
one straight of and without lying-i. e. without saying what he
knows or even half knows to be untrue-yet a consideration of
various things, which may include the mental causes, might
possibly lead both him and other people to judge that his declara­
tion of his own motive was false. But it appears to me that the
mental causes are seldom more than a very trivial item among the
things that it would be reasonable to consider. As for the
importance of considering the motives of an action, as opposed
to considering the intention, I am very glad not to be writing
either ethics or literary criticism, to which this question belongs.
Motives may explain actions to us ; but that is not to say that
they ' determne " in the sense of causing, actions. We do say:
, His love of truth caused him to . . . ' and similar things, and no
doubt such expressions help us to think that a motive must be
what produces or brings about a choice. But this means rather
'He did this in that he loved the truth ' ; it interprets his action.
Someone who sees the confusions involved in radically
distinguishing between motives and intentions and in defning
motives, so distinct, as the determinants of choice, may easily
be inclined to deny both that there is any such thing as mental
causality, and that ' motive ' means anything but intention. But
both of these inclinations are mistaken. We shall create confusion
if we do not notice (a) that phenomena deserving the name of
mental causality exist, for we can make the question ' Why? '
into a request for the sort of answer that I considered under that
head; (b) that mental causality is not restricted to choices or
voluntary or intentional actions, but is of wider application; it is
restricted to the wider field of things the agent knows about not
10 INTENTION § I Z-1 3
as an observer, so that it includes some involuntary actions ;
(c) that motives are not mental causes ; and (d) that there is an
application for ' motive ' other than the applications of ' the
intention with which a man acts '.
1 3. Revenge and gratitude are motives ; if I kill a man as an
act of revenge I may say I do it in order to be revenged, or that
revenge is my object ; but revenge is not some further thing
obtained by killing him, it is rather that killng him is revenge.
Asked why I kill him, I reply ' Because he killed my brother '.
We might compare this answer, which describes a concrete past
event, to the answer describing a concrete future state of afairs
whch we sometimes get in statements of objectives. It is the
same with gratitude, and remorse, and pity for something specifc.
These motives difer from, say, love or curiosity or despair in
just ths way: something that has happened (or is at present happen­
ing) is given as the ground of an action or abstention that is good
or bad for the person (it may be oneself, as with remorse) at
whom it is aimed. And if we wanted to explain e.g. revenge, we
should say it was harming someone because he had done one some
harm; we should not need to add to this a description of the
feelngs prompting the action or of the thought that had gone
with it. Whereas saying that someone does something out of, say,
friendship canot be explained in any such way. I will call
revenge and gratitude and remorse and pity backward-looking
motives, and contrast them with motive-in-general.
Motive-in-general is a very difcult topic which I do not
want to discuss at any length. Consider the statement that one
motive for my signing a petition was admiration for its promoter,
X. Asked ' Why did you sign it ?' I might well say ' Well, for
one thing, X, who is promoting it, did . . . ' and describe what he
did in an admiring way. I might add ' Of course, I know that
is not a ground for signing it, but I am sure it was one of the
things that most infuenced me '-which need not mean: ' I
tought explicitly of this before signing '. I say ' Consider this '
really with a view to saying , let us not consider it here '. It is
too complicated.
The account of motive popularised by Professor R yle does not
appear satisfactory. He recommends construing ' he boasted
INTENTION § 1
3
-1
4 2 1
from vanity ' as saying , he boasted . . . and his doing so satisfes
the law-like proposition that whenever he fds a chance of
securing the admiration and envy of others, he does whatever
he thinks will produce this admiration and envy ' 1. This passage
is rather curious and roundabout in expression; it seems to say,
and I can't understand it unless it implies, that a man could not
be said to have boasted from vanity unless he always behaved
vainly, or at least very very often did so. But this does not seem
to be true.
To give a motive (of the sort I have labelled ' motive-in­
general ', as opposed to backward-looking motives and intentions)
is to say something like ' See the action in this light '. To explain
one's own actions by an account indicating a motive is to put
them in a certain light. This sort of explanation is often elicited
by the question ' Why ?' The question whether the light in which
one so puts one's action is a true light is a notoriously difcult
one.
The motives admiration, curiosity, spite, friendship, fear,
love of truth, despair and a host of others are either of this
extremely complicated kind or are forward-looking or mixed.
I cal a motive forward-looking if it is an intention. For example,
to say that someone did something for fear of . . . often comes to
the same as saying he did so lest . . . or in order that . . . should
not happen.
1
4
. Leaving then, the topic of motive-in-general or ' inter­
pretatve ' motive, let us return to backward-looking motives.
Why is it that in revenge and gratitude, pity and remorse, the
past event (or present situation) is a reason for acting, not just a
mental cause ?
Now the most striking thing about these four is the way in
which good and evil are involved in them. E. g. if I am grateful
to someone, it is because he has done me some good, or at least
I think he has, and I cannot show gratitude by something that
I intend to harm him. In remorse, I hate some good things for
myself; I could not express remorse by getting myself plenty of
enjoyments, or for something that I did not find bad. If I do
something out of revenge which is in fact advantageous rather
" T, Concept ofMind, p. 89'
2Z INTENTION § 1 4
than harmful to my enemy, my action, in its description of being
advantageous to him, is involuntary.
These facts are the clue to our present problem. If an action
has to be thought of by the agent as doing good or harm of some
sort, and the thing in the past as good or bad, in order for the
thing in the past to be the reason for the action, then this reason
shews not a mental cause but a motive. This will come out in
the agent's elaborations on his answer to the question ' Why? '
It might seem that this is not the most important point, but
that the important point is that a proposed action can be questioned,
and the answer be a mention of something past. ' I am going to
kill him '-' Why ? '-' He killed my father'. But if we say this,
we show that we are forgetting the course of our enquiry; we
do not yet know what a proposed action is ; we can so far describe
it only as an action predicted by the agent, either without his
justifying his prediction at all, or with his mentioning in justifca­
tion a reason for acting; and the meaning of the expression
• reason for acting ' is precisely what we are at present trying to
elucidate. Might one not predict mental causes and their efects ?
Or even their efects after the causes have occurred? E.g. ' This
is going to make me angry '. Here it may be worth while to
remark that it is a mistake to think one cannot choose whether
to act from a motive. Plato saying to a slave ' I should beat
you if I were not angry ' would be a case. Or a man might have a
policy of never making remarks about a certain person because
he could not speak about that man unenviously, or unadmiringly.
We have now distinguished between a backward-looking
motive and a mental cause, and found that, here at any rate,
what the agent reports in answer to the question ' Why?' is
a reason for acting if in treating it as a reason he conceives it as
something good or bad, and hs own action as doing good or
harm. If you could e.g. show that either the action for which he
has revenged himself, or that in which he has revenged himself,
was quite harmless or was benefcial, he ceases to ofer a reason,
except prefaced by , I thought '. If it is a proposed revenge he
either gives it up or changes his reason. No such discovery
would afect an assertion of mental causality. Whether in general
good and harm play an essential part in the concept of intention
it still remains to fnd out. So far they have only been introduced
INTENTION § 1 4-q
as making a clear difference between a backward-lookig motive
and a mental cause. When the question ' Why? ' about a present
action is answered by a description of a future state of afairs,
this is already distinguished from a mental cause j ust by being
future. Hence there does not so far seem to be any need to say
that in
.
tention as such is intention of good or of harm.
1 5 . Now, however, let us consider this case :
Why did you do it ?
Because he told me to.
Is this a cause or a reason? It appears to depend very much on
what the action was or what the circumstances were. And we
should often refuse to make any distinction at all between some­
thing's being a reason, and its being a cause of the kind in ques­
tion; for that was explained as what one is after if one asks the
agent what led up to and issued in an action. But his being given
a reason to act and accepting it might be such a thing. And how
would one distinguish between cause and reason i such a case
as having hung one's hat on a peg because one's host said • Hang
up your hat on that peg ' ? Nor, I think, would it be correct to
say that this is a reason and not a mental cause because of the
understanding of the words that went into accepting the sug­
gestion. Here one would be attempting a contrast between this
case and, say, trning round at hearing someone say Bool But
this case would not in fact be decisively on one side or the other;
forced to choose between taking the noise as a reason and as
a cause, one would probably decide by how sudden one's
reaction was. Further, there is no question of understanding a
sentence in the following case: ' Why did you waggle your two
fore-fngers by your temples ? '-' Because he was doing it ' ; hut
this is not particularly diferent from hanging one's hat up because
one's host said • Hang your hat up '. Roughly speaking-if one
were forced to go on with the distinction-the more the action is
described as a mere response, the more inclined one would be
to the word ' cause ' ; while the more it is described as a response
to something as having a signicance that is dwelt on by the agent
i his account, or as a response surrounded with thoughts and
questions, the more inclined one would be to use the word
24
INTENTION § 1 � -1 6
, reason ' . But in very many cases the distinction would have no
point.
This, however, does not mean that it never has a point.
The cases on which we frst grounded the distinction might
be called ' full-blown ' : that is to say, the case of e.g. revenge on
the one hand, and of the thing that made one jump and knock a
cup of a table on the other. Roughly speaking, it establishes
something as a reason if one argues against it ; not as when
one says ' Noises should not make you jump like that : hadn't
you better see a doctor? ' but in such a way as to link it up with
motives and intentions : ' You did it because he told you to?
But why do what he says ? ' Answers like ' he has done a lot for
me " , he is my father ', , it would have been the worse for me
if I hadn't ' give the origial answer a place among reasons ;
, reasons ' here of course conforms to our general explanation.
Thus the full-blown cases are the right ones to consider in order
to see the distinction between reason and cause. But it is worth
noticing that what is so comonly said, that reason and cause are
everyhere sharply distinct notions, is not tre.
1 6. It will be useful at this stage to summarize conclusions
reached so far. Intentional actions are a sub-class of the events
in a man's history which are known to him not just because he
observes them. In this wider class is included one type of
involuntary actions, which is marked of by the fact that mental
causality is excluded from it; and mental causality is itself
characterized by being known without observation. But inten­
tional actions are not marked of just by being subject to mental
causality, since there are involuntary actions from which mental
causality is not excluded. Intentional actions, then, are the ones
to which the question ' Why ? ' is given application, in a special
sense which is so far explained as follows : the question has not
that sense if the answer is evidence or states a cause, includng a
mental cause ; positively, the answer may (a) simply mention
past history, (b) give an interpretation of the action, or (c)
mention something future. In cases (b) and (l) the answer is
already characterised as a reason for acting, i.e. as an answer to
the question ' Why ? ' in the requisite sense; and in case (a) it is
an answer to that question if the ideas of good or harm are
INTENTION § 1 6-1 7
involved i n its meaning as an answer; or again if further enquiry
elicits that it is connected with ' interpretative ' motive, or
intention with which.
17. I can now complete my account of when our question
' Why ? ' is shewnnottoapply. We saw that it was refused applica­
tion if the agent's answer was ' I was not aware I was doing that '
and also if the answer implied 'I observed that I was doing that '.
There was a third circumstance as well, in whch the question
would have no application: namely that in which the action is
somehow characterised as one in which there is no room for what
I called mental causality. This would come out if for example
the only way in which a question as to cause was dealt with was
to speculate about it, or to give reasons why such and such
should be regarded as the cause. E.g. if one said ' What made
you jump lke that ? ' when someone had just jerked with the
spasm which one sometimes gets as one is dropping of to sleep,
he would brush aside the question or say ' It was involuntary­
you know, the way one does sometimes jump like that ' ; now a
mark of the rejection of that particular question ' What made
you? ' is that one says things like ' I don't know if anyone knows
the cause ' or ' Isn't it something to do with electrical discharges ?'
and that this is the only sense that one gives to ' cause ' here.
Now of course a possible answer to the question ' Why? ' is
one like ' I just thought I would ' or ' It was an impulse ' or ' For
no particular reason ' or ' It was an idle action-I was just
doodling '. I do not call an answer of this sort a rejection of the
question. The question is not refused application because the
answer to it says that there is no reason, any more than the question
how much money I have in my pocket is refused application by
the answer ' None '.
An answer of rather peculiar interest is : ' I don't know why I
did it '. This can have a sense in which it does not mean that
perhaps there is a causal explanation that one does not know. It
goes with ' I found myself doing it ', ' I heard mysel say . . . "
but is appropriate to actions in which some special reason seems
to be demanded, and one has none. It suggests surprise at one's
own actions ; but that is not a sufcient condition for saying it,
since one can be a bit surprised without wanting to use such an
16 hTENTlON § 1 7-1 8
expression-if one has uttered a witticism of a sort that i s not
one's usua
l
sty
l
e, for examp
l
e.
, I don't know why I did it ' perhaps is rather often said by
people caught in trivial crimes, where however it tends to go
with ' it was an impulse '. I disregard this use of it, as it has
become too much of a set form; and it does not in fact seem
strange to be attracted to commit trivial crimes without any need
(if there is anything strange, it is only in not be�ng deterred by
obvious considerations, not in thinking of doing such a t
h
ing).
Sometimes one may say: ' Now why did I do t
h
at ? '-when one
has discovered that, e. g. one has just put something in a rat
h
er
odd place. But ' I don't know why I did it ' may be said
b
y
someone who does not discover that he did it; he is quite aware as
he does it ;
b
ut he comes out with this expression as if to say
'
It
is the sort of action in whic
h
a reason seems requisite ' . As if
there were a reason, if only he knew it; but of course that is not
the case in the relevant sense; even if psychoanalysis persuades
h
im to accept somet
h
ing as hs reason, or he fnds a reason in a
divine or diabo
l
ical plan or inspiration, or a causal explanation
in his having been previously hypnotised.
I myself have never wished to use t
h
ese words in this way,
b
ut that does not make me suppose t
h
em to
b
e senseless. They
are a curious intermediary case : the question ' Why? ' has and yet
has not application; it has application in the sense that it is
admitted as an appropriate question; it lacks it in the sense that
the answer is that there is .10 answer. I shall later
b
e discussing
the diference
b
etween the intentional and the voluntary; and
once that distinction is made we shall be able to say: an action
of this sort is voluntary, rather than intentional. And we shall
see (§2 5 ) that there are other more ordiary cases where the
<uestion ' Why ? ' is not made Oft to
b
e inapplicable, and yet is
not granted application.
1 8. Answers like ' No particular reason ' ; ' I just thought
I would ', and so on are often <uite intelligible ; sometimes
strange; and sometimes unintelligible. That is to say, if someone
hunted out all the green books in his house and spread them out
carefully on the roof, and gave one of these answers to the
question ' Why? ' his words would be unintelligible unless as
INTENTION
§
l R
27
j oking and mystifcation. They would be unintelligible, not
because one did not known what thr meant, but because one
could not make out what the man meant by saying them here.
These diferent sorts of unintelligibility are worth dwelling on
briefy.
Wittgenstein said that when we call something senseless it is
not as it were its sense that is senseless, but a form of words is
being excluded from the language. E. g. • Perhaps congenitally
blind people have visual images '. But the argument for ' exclud­
ing this form of words from the language ' is apparently an
argument that • its sense is senseless '. The argument goes some­
thing like this : What does it mean?-That they have what I have
when I have a visual image. And what have 1 ?-Something like
this.-Here Wittgenstein would go on to argue against private
ostensive defnition. The next move is to see what is the language­
game played with • having a visual image ' or • seeing in one's
mind's eye '. It isn't jlst saying these things-nor can it be
explained as saying th.m with the right reference (this has been
shewn by the argument against private ostensive defnition). The
conclusion is that the language-game with ' seeing ' is a necessary
part of the language-game with ' seeing in the mind's eye ' ; or
rather, that a language-game can only be identifed as that latter
one if the former language-game too is played with the words
used. The result of the argument, if it is successful, is that
we no longer want to say • Perhaps blind men . . . etc.' Hence
Wittgenstein's talk of • therapies '. The ' exclusion from the
language ' is done not by legislation but by persuasion. The
, sense that is senseless ' is the tpe of sense that our expressions
suggest ; the suggestion arises from a ' false assimilation of
games '.
But our present case is entirely diferent. If we say ' it does
not make sense for this man to say he did this for no particular
reason' we are not • excluding a form of words from the language' ;
we are saying ' we cannot understand such a man '. (Wittgen­
stein seems to have moved from an interest in the frst sort of
' not making sense ' to the second as Philosophical Investigations
developed.)
Similarly, ' I was not aware that I was doing so ' is sometimes
intelligible, sometimes strange, and in some cases would be
unintelligible.
2 8 INTENTION § 1 8-1 9
It would take considerable skill to use language with frequent
unintelligibility of this sort; it would be as difcult as to train
oneself in the smooth production of long unrehearsed word­
salads.
The answers to the question ' Why? ' which give it an appli­
cation are, then, more extensive in range than the answers which
give reasons for acting. This question ' Why? ' can now be
defned as the question expecting an answer in this range. And
with this we have roughly outlined the area of intentional actions.
1 9. We do not add anything attaching to the action at the
time it is done by describing it as intentional. To call it inten­
tional is to assign it to the class of intentional actions and so to
indicate that we should consider the question ' Why? ' relevant
to it in the sense that I have described. For the moment, I will
not ask wf this question ' Why ? ' should be applicable to some
events and not to others.
That an action is not called ' intentional ' in virtue of any
extra feature which exists when it is performed, is clear from the
following: Let us suppose that there is such a feature, and let us
call it ' I '. Now the intentional character of the action cannot be
asserted without giving the description under which it is inten­
tional, since the same action can be intentional under one descrip­
tion and unintentional under another. It is however something
actually done that is intentional, if there is an intentional action
at all. A man no doubt contracts certain muscles in picking up a
ham er; but it would generally be false to call his contraction of
muscles the intentional act that he performed. This does not
mean that his contraction of muscles was unintentional. Let us
call it ' preintentional '. Are we to say that I, which is supposed
to be the feature in virtue of which what he does is an intentional
action, is something which accompanies a preintentional action,
or movement of his body? If so, then the preintentional move­
ment + I guarantees that an intentional action is performed: but
which one ? Clearly our symbol ' I ' must be interpreted as a
description, or as having an internal relation to a description, of
an action. But nothing about the man considered by himself
in the moment of contracting his muscles, and nothing in the
contraction of the muscles, can possibly determine the content
INTENTION § 1 9
of that description; which therefore may be an one, if we are
merely considering what can be determined about the man by
himself in the moment. Then it is a mere happy accident that an
I relevant to the wider context and further consequences ever
accompanies the preintentional movements in which a man
performs a given intentional action. What makes it tre that the
man's movement is one by which he performs such and such an
action will have absolutely no bearing on the I that occurs,
unless we suppose a mechanism by which an I appropriate to the
situation is able to occur because of the man's knowledge of the
situation-he guesses e.g. that his muscular contractions will
result in his grasping the hammer and so the right I occurs. But
that cannot very well be, since a mar may very likely not be so
much as aware of his preintentional acts. Besides, we surely
want I to have some efect on what happens. Does he then
notice that I is followed often enough by its description's coming
true, and so summon up l? But that turns the summonig up
of I into an intentional action itself, for which we shall have to
look for a second I. Thus the assumption that some feature of
the moment of acting constitutes actions as intentional leads us
into inextricable confusions, and we must give it up.
And in descrbing intentional actions as such, it will be a
mistake to look for the fundamental description of what occurs­
such as the movements of muscles or molecules-and then think
of intention as something, perhaps very complicated, which
qualifes this. The only events to consider are intentional actions
themselves, and to call an action intentional is to say it is inten­
tional under some description that we give (or could give) of it.
The question does not normally arise whether a man's
proceedings are intentional ; hence it is often ' odd ' to call them
so. E.g. 1f I saw a man, who was walking along the pavement,
turn towards the roadway, look up and down, and then walk
across the road when it was safe for him to do so, it would not be
usual for me to say that he crossed the road intentionally. But it
would be wrong to infer from this that we ought not to give such
an action as a typical example of intentional action. It would
however be equally a mistake to say: since this man's crossing
the road is an example of an intentional action, let us consider
this action by itself, and let us try to fnd in the action, or in the
INTENTION § 1 9-20
man himself at the moment of acting, the characteristic which
makes the action intentional.
20. Would intentional actions still have the characteristic
, intentional " if there were no such thing as expression of
intention for the future, or as further intention in acting? I.e.
is ' intentional ' a characteristic of the actions that have it, which
is formally independent of those other occurrence; of the concept
of intention? To test this, I will make two raciler curious
suppositions : (a) Suppose that ' intention ' only occurred as it
occurs in ' intentional action ', and (b) suppose that the only
answer to the question ' Why are you X�ing? ', granted that the
question is not refused application, were ' I just am, that's all '.
(a) This supposition, we might say, carries a suggestion
that ' intentional action ' means as it were ' intentious action '.
That is to say, that an action's being intentional is rather like a
facial expression's being sad. It would not, of course, be without
consequences ; the applicability of the question ' Why? ' would
remain. But of course the diagnosis of a melancholy expression
has consequences too, and in a similar fashion: ' What are you
sad about ? ' may be asked, and may receive either a positive
answer or the answer ' Nothing ' ; which in turn may mean that
one is sad, but not about anything, or that one is not sad.
Intention, on this interpretation of our supposition (a), has
become a style-characteristic of observable human proceedings,
with which is associated the question ' Why? ' This however is
quite contrary to the concept of intention, because the very same
human proceedings may be questioned under the description
, X ' ( Why are you X-ing? ) and under the description ' Y '
(' Why are you Y -ing ? )¡ and the frst question be admitted appli­
cation while the second is refused it, so that the very same pro�
ceedings are intentional under one description and unintentional
under another. It is clear that a concept for which this does not
hold is not a concept of intention. If we try to make i retain
this characteristic by suggesting that the proceedings-in-a-given­
description are what bears the stamp of intention, we shall have
to suppose that a man who, having been seen clearly, is asked
, Why are you X-ing? ' can never profess unawareness that he
was X-ing, except on pain of being a liar if in fact he was X-i
g
.
INTENTION § 20
3 "
And tis supposition would involve such radical changes that it
becomes impossible to say whether we could still see a place for
the concept of intention at all, or diagnose the question ' Why? '
as having in part the same sense as our question ' Why? ' We
should merely have a question to which possible answers were ' I
j ust was, that's all " ' I wasn't " mention of something in the
past like ' He killed my father ', or a sentimental characterisation
of the action. For of course answers giving further intentions are
excluded ex hypothesi, since if they were included the possible
substitutions for
'
X in 'A intends X would include more than
the supposition allows.
We can however try to give a diferent interpretation to
supposition (a). Intention still only occurs in present action.
That is, there is still no such tng as the further intention with
which a man does what he does; and no such thing as intention
for the future. Intention however is not a style that marks an
action, or an action-in-a-description; for it is possible for a man to
thik he is doing one thing when he is not doing that thing but
another. Thus he can say that he did not know he was doing
something, when asked why he did it. We must not however be
too sweeping in excluding intention with which a man does
what he does; for we must presumably allow the further intention
with which he is doing X, say Y, so long as it is reasonable to
say that he is doing Y in, and at the same time as, doing X: e.g.
a man can be said to hold a glass to his lips with (at least) the
intention of drinking, if he is drinking when he holds it to hs lips.
What is excluded from the supposition is a further intention Y
such that we coul object that he is not yet doing Y but only
doing X with a view to doing Y, as when a man takes his gun
down with a view to shooting rabbits.
In this case intentional actions will be marked out as those of
which a man has non-observational knowledge, and for which
there is a question whose answers fall in the range (a) , I j ust did •
(b) backward looking motive, and (c) sentimental characterisation.
(a) is of no interest ; so our question must be: is motive enough to
constitute intentional actions as a special kind? One ca argue
against motives-i.e. criticise a man for having acted on such
a motive-but a great deal of the point of doing so will be gone
if we imagine the expression of intention for the future to be
INTENTION § 20
absent, as it is on our hypothesis. That is why on this hypothesis
giving an interpretative motive turns into sentimental character­
isation. It seems reasonable to say that if the only occurence of
intention were as the intention of doing whatever one is doing,
the notion of intentional action itself would be a very thin one;
it is not clear why it should be marked of as a special class
among all those of a man's actions and movements which are
known to him without observation, any more than we mark of
movements that are expressions of emotion as a distinct and
important class of happenings.
(b) By the second supposition, though intention is supposed
to occur both in present intentional action and in expressions
of intention for the future, the only answer to the question
' Why ? ' is ' I just am '. (Naturally ' further intention with
which' a man acts is excluded by this hypothesis,for it is expressed
in a type of answer to the question ' Why ? ' which is excluded.)
If this were so, then there would be no special sense of the
question ' Why? ' and no distinct concept of intentional action
at all. That is to say, it would no longer be possible to difer­
entiate within the class of acts known without observation. For
a question whose only answer is a statement that one is doing the
thng cannot be identifed with our question ' Why? ', even if the
word for it is one used in requests for evidence and enquiries
into causality. Thus on the present hypothesis there would be no
distinction between such things as starts and gasps and, quite
generally, volunta
r
actions.
It is natural to think that the diference is one that we can
see in the things themselves. To be sure, all these things will be
alike as regards the way we know that they are taking place­
but isn't there an introspectively discernible diference between an
involuntary gasp and a voluntary intake of breath?-Well, one
may be more sudden than the other. Still, I can voluntarily do
it quite quickly, so that is not the diference.-Should we say
the voluntary kind can be foreseen, predicted ?-But the involun­
tary kind might be predicted.-But the basis of the prediction
won't be the same I -To be sure; but the diference between
bases of prediction is j ust the diference between evidence and
a reason for acting. Though ' I just did, that's all ' is an answer
to the question ' Why did you do it ?', it does not give a reason,
INTENTION § 20-2 I
and the parallel answer for the future ' I'm just going to, that's
all ' does not give a basis for the prediction, it merely repeats it.
Let us try another method of diferentiation. A voluntary
action can be commanded. If someone says ' Tremble ' and I
tremble I am not obeing him-even if I tremble because he said
it in a .terrible voice. To play it as obedience would be a kind of
sophisticated joke (characteristic of the Marx Brothers) which
might be called ' playing language-games wrong '. Now we can
suppose that human actions, whch are not distinguished by the
way their agent knows them, are or are not subject to command.
I they are subject to command they can be distinguished as a
separate class ; but the distinction seems to be an idle one, just
made for its own sake. Don't say ' But the distinction relates to
an obviously useul feature of certain actions, namely that one
c get a person to perform them by commanding him ' ; for
• usefulness ' is not a concept we can suppose retained if we have
done away with ' purpose ' .
Still, some actions are subject to command, so has not the
question ' Why ? ' a place ? ' Why did you do it ? ' ' Because you
told me to '. That is an answer, and if some actions were subject
to command, the people concered might have the question
whether something was done in obedience to a command or not.
But the question ' Why? ' may here simply be rendered by
• Commanded or not commanded ?' This will be a form of the
relevant question ' Why? ' if it is open to the speaker to say
• You commanded it, and I did it, but not commanded . • I
didn't do it because you told me to '.) But what would be the
point of this, taken by itself-i.e. in isolation from a person's
reasons and aims ? For these are excluded; the question ' Why? '
is not supposed to have any such application in the case we are
imagining. The expression might be only a form of rudeness.
Thus the occurrence of other answers to the question ' Why? '
besides ones like ' I just did ', is essential to the existence of the
concept of an intention or voluntary action.
2 I . Ancient and medieval philosophers-or some of them
at any rate-regarded it as evident, demonstrable, that human
beings must always act with some end in view, and even with
some one end in view. The argument for this strikes us as rather
H
INTETION § 2 I -ZZ
strange. Can't a man just do what he does, a great deal of the
time ? He may or may not have a reason or a purpose; and if he
has a reason or purpose, it in turn may just be what he happens
to want ; why demand a reason or purpose for it? and why
must we at last arrive at some one purpose that has an intrinsic
fnality about it ? The old arguments were designed to show that
the chain could not go on for ever; they pass us by, because we
are not icled to think it mut even begin; and it. can surely stop
where it stops, no need for it to stop at a purpose that looks
intrinsically fnal, one and the same for all actions. I fact there
appears to be an illicit transition in Aristotle, from ' all chais
must stop somewhere ' to ' there is somewhere where all chains
must stop.'
But now we can see why some chain must at any rate begin.
As we have seen, this does not mean that an action cannot be
called voluntary or intentional unless the agent has an end in
view; it means that the concept of voluntary or intentional
action would not exist, if the question ' Why? " with answers
that give reasons for acting, did not. Given that it does exist,
the cases where the answer is ' For no particular reason ', etc.
can occur; but their interest is slight, and it must not be supposed
that because they can occur that answer would everywhere be
intelligible, or that it could be the only answer ever given.
Â. In all this discussion, when I have spoken of the answer
to the question ' Why ? ' as mentioning an intention, the intention
in question has been of course the intention with whih a man does
what he does. We must now turn to the close.! examination of
this. So far I have merely said ' If the answer to the question
, Why ? ' is a simple mention of something future, then it
expresses the intention " and the question of cause versus reason,
which has plagued us in relation to answers mentioning the past,
simply does not arise here. I do not of course mean to say that
every answer which tells you with what intention a man is doing
whatever it is he is doing is a description of some future state of
afairs ; but if a description of some future state of afairs makes
sense just by itself as an answer to the question, then it is a
expression of intention. But there are other expressions of the
intention with which a man is doing something: for example, a
INTENTION § 2 2
wider description of what he i s doing. For example, someone
comes into a room, sees me lying on a bed and asks ' What are you
doing? ' The answer ' lying on a bed ' would be received with
just irritation; an answer like ' Resting ' or ' Doing Yoga ',
which would be a description of what 1 am doing in lying on my
bed, would be an expression of intention.
For the moment, however, let me concentrate on the simple
future answer. I have said an answer describing something
future ' j ust by itself ' is an expression of the intention with
which a person acts. That qualifcation is necessary can be seen
in the following instance ' Why are you setting up a camera on
this pavement ?' ' Because Marilyn Monroe is going to pass by '.
That is just a statement of something future, but by no means
expresses that I am setting up a camera with the intention that
Marilyn Monroe shall pass by. On the other hand, if you say
' Why are you crossing the road ' and I reply ' I am going to
look in that shop window ', this expresses the intention with
which 1 cross the road. Now what is the diference ?
Consider this case : ' Why are you crossing the road?'­
, Because there will be an eclipse in July ' . This answer, as things
are, needs fllng in. And no kind of filling in that we shall
accept without objection would give that answer the role of a
statement of intention. (1 mean e. g. something like ' For six
months before the eclipse that shop window is having a lot of
explanatory diagrams and models on display '). But some savage
might well do something in order to procure an eclipse; and I
suppose the answer ' Eclipse in July' could perhaps have been
understood as an expression of intention by the Dublin crowd
who once assembled to watch an eclipse, and dispersed when
Dean Swift sent down his butler with a message to say that by the
Dean's orders the eclipse was of.
That is to say: the future state of afairs mentioned must be
such that we can understand the agent's thinking it will or may be
brought about by the action about which he is being questioned.
But does this mean that people must have notions of cause
and efect in order to have intentions in acting? Consider the
question ' Why are you going upstairs ? ' answered by , To get
my camera '. My going upstairs is not a cause from which anyone
could deduce the efect that I get my camera. And yet isn't it a
3
6
INTENTION § 22
future state of afairs which is going 10 be brought about by my
going upstairs ? But who can say that it is going to be brought
about ? Only I myself, in this case. It is not that going upstairs
usually produces the fetching of cameras, even if there is a camera
upstairs-unless indeed the context includes an order given me,
Fetch your camera ', or my own statement I am going to get
my camera '.
On the other hand, if someone says ' But your camera is in
the cellar " and I say ' I know, but I am still going upstairs to
get it ' my saying so becomes mysterious ; at least, there is a gap
to fll up. Perhaps we think of a lift which I can work from the
top of the house to bring the camera up from the bottom. But if
I say: ' No, I quite agree, there is no way for a person at the top
of the house to get the camera ; but still I am going upstairs to
get it ' I begin to be unintelligible. In order to make sense of
I do P with a view to Q " we must see how the future state of
afairs Q is supposed to be a possible later stage in proceedings
of which the action P is an earlier stage. It is true that, on the one
hand, cases of scientifc knowledge, and on the other hand cases
of magical rites, or of a vague idea of great power and authority
lke Dean Swift's, all come under this very vague and general
formula. Al that I have said, in efect, is It is not the case that
a description of an future state of afairs can be an answer to this
question about a present action ' . A man's intention i acting is
not so private and interior a thing that he has absolute authority
i saying what it is-as he has absolute authority in saying what he
dreamt. (If what a man says he dreamed does not make sense,
that doesn't mean that his saying he dreamed it does not make
sense.)
I shall not try to elaborate my vague and general formula,
that we must have an idea how a state of afairs Q is a stage in
proceedings in which the action P is an earlier stage, if we are
to be able to say that we do P so that Q. For of course it is not
necessary to exercise these general notions in order to say , I do
P so that Q '. All that it is necessary to understand is that to say,
in one form or another : ' But Q won't happen, even if you do
P or 'but it will happen whether you do P or not' is, in some
way, to contradict the intention.
INTENTION § Z
3
3
7
z
3 . Let us ask : is there any description which is the descrip­
tion of an intentional action, given that an intentional action
occurs ? And let us consider a concrete situation. A man is
pumping water into the cistern which supplies the drinking
water of a house. Someone has found a way of systematically
contaminating the source with a deadly cumulative poison whose
efects are unnoticeable until they can no longer be cured. The
house is regularly inhabited by a small group of party chiefs,
with their immediate families, who are i control of a great
state ; they are engaged in exterminating the Jews and perhaps
plan a world war.-The man who contaminated the source has
calculated that if these people are destroyed some good men will
get into power who will govern well, or even insttute the
Kingdom of Heaven on earth and secure a good life for all the
people; and he has revealed the calculation, together with the
fact about the poison, to the man who is pumping. The death of
the inhabitants of the house will, of course, have all sorts of other
efects ; e. g. , that a number of people unknown to these men will
receive legacies, about which they know nothing.
This man's arm is going up and down, up and down. Certain
muscles, with Latin names which doctors know, are contracting
and relaxing. Certain substances are getting generated in some
nerve fbres-substances whose generation in the course of
voluntary movement interests physiologists. The moving arm
is casting a shadow on a rockery where at one place and from
one position it produces a curious efect as if a face were looking
out of the rockery. Further, the pump makes a series of clicking
noises, which are in fact beating out a noticeable rhythm.
Now we ask: What is this man doing? What is the description
of his action?
First, of course, an description of what is going on, with him
as subject, which is in fact true. E. g. he is earning wages, he is
supporting a family, he is wearing away his shoe-soles, he is
making a disturbance of the air. He is sweating, he is generating
those substances in his nerve fbres. If in fact good government,
or the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and a good life for everyone,
comes about by the labours of the good men who get into power
because the party chiefs die, then he will have been helping to
produce this state of afairs. However, our enquiries into the
INTENTION § 2 3
question ' Why ? ' enable us to narrow down our consideration of
descriptions of what he is doing to a range coverig all and only
his intentional actions. ' He is X-ing ' is a description of an
intentional action if (a) it is true and (b) there is such a thing as an
answer in the range I have defned to the question ' Why are
you X-ing? ' That is to say, the description in ' Why are you
contracting those muscles ? ' is ruled out if the onl sort of answer
to the question ' Why ? ' displays that the man's knowledge, if
any, that he was contracting those muscles is an inference from
his knowledge of anatomy. And the description in the question
, Why are you generating those substances in your nerve fbres ? '
will in fact always be ruled Qut on these lines unless we suppose
that the man has a plan of producing these substances (if it were
possible, we might suppose he wanted to collect some) and so
moves his arm vigorously to generate them. But the descriptions
in the questions ' Why are you making that face come and go in
the rockery ? " ' Why are you beating out that curious rhythm? '
will be revealed as descriptions of intentional actions or not by
diferent styles of answer, of which one would contain something
signifying that the man notices that he does that, while the other
would be in the range we have defned. But there are a large
number of X's, in the imagined case, for which we can readily
suppose that the answer to the question ' Why are you X-ing? '
falls within the range. E.g. ' Why are you moving your arm up
and down? ' -' I'm pumping '. ' Why are you pumping? '-' I'm
pumping the water-supply for the house '. ' Why are you beating
out that curious rhythm? ',-' Oh, I found out how to do it, as
the pump does click anyway, and I do it just for fun '. 'Why
are you pumping the water ? '-' Because it's needed up at the
house ' and (sotto voce) To polish that lot of '. ' Why are you
poisoning these people ? '-' If we can get rid of them, the other
lot will get in and . . . '
Now there is a break in the series of answers that one may get
to such a question. Let the answer contain a further description
Y, then sometimes it is correct to say not merely: the man i s
X-ing, but also : ' the man is Y -ing '-if that is, nothing falsifying
the statement ' He is Y-ing ' can be observed. E.g. ' Why are
you pumping ? '-' To replenish the water supply '. If this was
the answer, then we can say ' He is replenishing the water-
INTENTION � Z
3 3
9
supply ' ; unless indeed, he is not. This will appear a tautologous
pronouncement ; but there is more to it. For if after his saying
, To replenish the water-supply ' we can say ' He is replenishing
the water-supply ', then this would, in ordinary circumstances, of
itself be enough to characterise that as an intentional action. (The
qualifcation is necessary because an intended efect j ust occasion­
ally comes about by accident). Now that is to say, as we
have already determined, that the same question ' Why ? ' will
have application to this action in its turn. This is not an empty
conclusion: it means that someone who, having so answered ' To
replenish the water-supply ', is asked ' Why are you replenishing
the water-supply ? " must not say e.g. ' Oh, I didn't know I was
doing that ', or refuse any but a causal sense of the question.
Or rather, that if he does, this makes nonsense of his answers.
A man can be doing something which he nevertheless does
not do, if it is some process or enterprise which it takes time to
complete and of which therefore, if it is cut short at any time,
we may say that he was doing it, but did not do it. This point
however, is in no way peculiar to intentional action; for we can
say that something was falling over but did not fall (since some­
thing stopped it). Therefore we do not appeal to the presence of
intention to justify the description ' He is Y -ing ' ; though in some
cases his own statement that he is Y-ing may, at a certain stage
of the proceedings, be needed for anybody else to be able to say
he is Y-ing, since not enough has gone on for that to be evident ;
as when we see a man doing things with an array of wires and
plugs and so on.
Sometimes, j okingly, we are pleased to say of a man ' He i s
doing such-and-such ' when he manifestly i s not. E. g. ' He i s
replenishing the water-supply ', when this is not happening
because, as we can see but he cannot, the water is pouring out
of a hole in a pipe on the way to the cistern. And in the same
way we may speak of some rather doubtful or remote objective,
e.g. ' He is proving Fermat's last theorem ' ; or again one might
say of a madman ' He is leading his victorious armies '¤ It is
easy, however, to exclude these cases from consideration and
point out the break between cases where we can say ' He is
Y-ing " when he has mentioned Y in answer to the question
' Why are you X-ing? " and ones where we say rather ' He is
40 INTENTION § 2 3
going to Y' . I do not think i t i s a quite sharp break. E. g. is
there much to choose between ' She is making tea ' and ' She is
putting on the kettle in order to make tea ' -i. e. ' She is going to
make tea ' ? Obviously not. And hence the common use of
the present to describe a future action which is by no means
just a later stage in activity which has a name as a single whole.
E. g. ' I am seeing my dentist ', ' He is demonstrating in Trafalgar
Square ' (either might be said when someone is. at the moment
e. g. travelling in a train). But the less normal it would be to take
the achievement of the obj ective as a matter of course, the more
the objective gets expressed onl by , in order to '. E. g. ' I am
going to London in order to make my uncle change his will ' ;
not ' I am making my uncle change is will ' .
To a certain extent the three divisions of the subject made
in §1 , are simply equivalent. That is to say, where the answers
' I am going to fetch my camera ', ' I am fetching my camera '
and ' in order to fetch my camera ' are interchangeable as answers
to the question ' Why? ' asked when I go upstairs.
Now if all this holds, what are we to say about all these
many descriptions of an intentional action? Are we to say that
there are as many distinct actions as we can generate distinct
descriptions, with X as our starting point ? I mean : We say
, Why are you X-ing ? ' and get the answer ' To Y " or ' I'm
Y-ing ' , Y being such that we can say ' he's Y-ing ' ; and then we
can ask ' Why are you Y -ing? ' and perhaps get the answer
To Z " and can still say ' He's Z-ing '. E.g. ' Why are you
moving your arm up and down? ' ' To operate the pump ',
and he is operating the pump. 'Why are you pumping? ' ' To
replenish the water-supply ' and he is replenishing the water­
supply; ' Why are you replenishing the water-supply ? ' ' To
poison the inhabitants ' and he is poisoning the inhabitants, for
they are getting poisoned. And here comes the break; for though
in the case we have described there is probably a further answer,
other than ' j ust for fun " all the same this further description
(e.g. to save the Jews, to put in the good men, to get the Kingdom
of Heaven on earth) is not such that we can now say: he is saving
the Jews, he is getting the Kingdom of Heaven, he is putting in
the good ones. So let us stop here and say : are there four actions
here, because we have found four distinct descriptions satisfying
INTENTION § Z3-Z5
4
1
our conditions, namely moving his arm up and down, operating
the pump, replenishing the water supply, and poisoning the
inhabitants ?
Z4. Before trying to answer this, however, we must raise
some difculties. For someone might raise the objection that
pumping can hardly be an act of poisoning. It is of course, as
the lawyers would say, an act of laying poison, and one might try
to reply by saying the man poisons the inhabitants if he lays
poison and they get poisoned. But after all we said it was a
cumulative poison; this means that no single act of laying the
poison is by itself an act of poisoning; besides, didn't the other
man ' lay ' the poison? Suppose we ask ' When did our man
poison them? ' One might answer : all the time they got poisoned.
But in that case one might say ' His poisoning them was not an
action; for he was perhaps doing nothing relevant at any of the
times they were drinking the poison.' Is the question ' When
exactly did he poison them?', to be answered by specifying all
the numerous times when he laid the poison? But none of
them by itself could b called poisoning them; so how can we
call the man's present pumping an intentional act of poisoning ?
Or must we draw the conclusion that he at no time poisoned
them, since he was not engaged in poisoning at the times at
which they were being poisoned? We cannot say that since at
some time he poisoned them, there must be actions which we can
label ' poisonng them " and in which we can fnd what it was to
poison them. For in the acts of pumping poisoned water nothing
in particular is necessarily going on that might not equally well
have been going on if the acts had been acts of pumping non­
poisonous water. Even if you imagine that pictures of the
inhabitants lying dead occur in the man's head, and please him­
such pictures could also occur in the head of a man who was not
poisoning them, and need not occur in this man. The diference
appears to be one of circumstances, not of anything that is going
on the.
Z 5. A further difculty however arises from the fact that
the man's intention might not be to poison them but only to
earn his pay. That is to say, if he is being improbably confdential
INTETION § 2 S
and is asked ' Why did you replenish the house water-supply
with poisoned water ? " his reply is, not ' To polish them of ',
but ' I didn't care about that, I wanted my pay and just did my
usual j0b ' . In that case, although he knows concerning an
intentional act of his-for it, namely replenishing the house water­
supply, is intentional by our criteria-that it is also an act of
replenishing the house water-supply with poisoned water, it
would be incorrect, by our criteria, to say that his act of replenish­
ing the house supply with poisoned water was intentional.
And I do not doubt the correctness of the conclusion; it seems to
shew that our criteria are rather good. On the other hand, we
really do seem to be in a bit of a difculty to nnd the intentional
act of poisoning those people, supposing that this is what his
intentional act is. It is really not at all to be wondered at that so
very many people have thought of intention as a special interior
movement ; then the thing that marked this man's proceedings
as intentional poisoning of those people would just be that this
interior movement occurred in him. But (quite apart from the
objections to this idea which we have already considered) the
notion of the interior movement tends to have the most unfor­
tunately absurd consequences. For after all we can form inten­
tions ; now if intention is an interior movement, it would appear
that we can choose to have a certain intention and not another,
just by e.g. saying within ourselves : ' What I mean to be doing is
earning my living, and not poisoning the household ' ; or ' What
I mean to be doing is helping those good men into power; I
withdraw my intention from the act of poisoning the household,
which I prefer to think goes on without my intention being
in it '. The idea that one can determine one's intentions by making
such a little speech to oneself is obvious bosh. Nevertheless the
genuine case of ' I didn't care tuppence one way or the other for
the fact that someone had poisoned the water, I j ust wanted to
earn my pay without trouble by doing my usual j ob-I go with
the house, see ? and it doesn't matter to me who's in it ' does
appear to make it very difcult to nnd anything except a man's
thoughts-and these are surely interior-to distinguish the inten­
tional poisoning from poisoning knowingly when this was
nevertheless not the man's intention.
Well, one may say, isn't my proposed criterion in a way a
INTENTON § 2 �
43
criterion by thoughts ? If the answer to the question • Why did
you replenish the house supply with poisoned water? ' is ' To
polish them of', or any answer within the range, like • I just
thought I would ', then by my criterion the action under that
description is characterised as intentional; otherwise not. But
does this not suppose that the answer is or would be given? And
a man can surely make up the answer that he prefers I So it
may appear that I have suppled something j ust like the interior
movement, which a man can make what he likes ; but (perhaps
out of an attachment to • verifcationism ') preferred an exteral
answer (actual or hypothetical) which a man can equally make
what he likes-at least within the range of moderately plausible
answers. Of course I must mean that the trlthfd answer is, or
would be, one or the other; but what sort of control of truthful­
ness can be establshed here ?
The answer to this has to be : there can be a certain amount of
control of the truthfulness of the answer. For example, in the
case of the man who didn't care tuppence, part of the account
we imagined him as giving was that he j ust went on doing his
usual job. It is therefore necessary that it should be his usual job
if his answer is to be acceptable ; and he must not do anything,
out of the usual course of his job, that assists the poisoning and
of which he cannot give an acceptable account. E. g. suppose
he distracts the attention of one of the inhabitants from some­
thing about the water source that might suggest the truth; the
question • Why did you call him from over there ? ' must have
a credible answer other than • to prevent him from seeing' ; and
a multiplication of such points needing explanation would cast
doubt on his claim not to have done anything with a view to
faciltating the poisoning.-And yet here we might encounter
the following explanation: he did not want the enormous trouble
that would result from a certain person's noticing; hoped that
since the poison was laid it would all go of safely. All along the
line he calculated what looked like landing him personally in
least trouble, and he reckoned that preventing anything from
being suspected would do that. That is quite possible.
Up to a point, then, there is a check on his truthfuless in the
account we are thinking he would perhaps give ; but still, there
is an area in which there is none. The diference between
th
e
44
INTENTION § 2 5
cases in which he doesn't care whether the people are actually
poisoned or not, and in which he is very glad on realising tat
they will be poisoned if he co-operates by goig on doing his
ordinary job, is not one that necessarily carries with it any
diference in what he overtly does or how he looks. The diference
in his thought on the subject might only be the diference between
the meanings of the grunt that he gives when he grasps that the
water is poisoned. That is to say, when asked . Why did you
replenish the house supply with poisoned water ? ' he might
either reply ' I couldn't care tuppence ' or say ' I was glad to
help to polish them of " and if capable of saying what had
actually occurred in him at the time as the vehicle of either of
these thoughts, he might have to say only that he grunted. This
is the kind of truth there is in the statement Only you c know
if you had such-and-such an intention or not '. There is a point
at which only what the man himself says is a sign; and here there
is room for much dispute and fne diagnosis of his genuieness.
On the other hand, if, say, this was not hs normal job, but
he was hired by the poisoner to pump the water, knowing it was
poisoned, the case is diferent. He can say he doesn't care tp­
pence, and that he only wants the money; but the commssion
by the acceptance and performance of which he gets the money
is-however implicit this is allowed to be-to pump poisoned
water. Therefore unless he takes steps to cheat his hirer (he
might e. g. put what he mistakenly thought was an antidote into
the water), it is not an acceptable account if he says ' I wasn't
intending to pump poisoned water, only to pump water and get my
hire ', so that the forms he adopts for refusing to answer the
question ' Why did you pump poisoned water ? ' with an answer
in our defed range-.g. with the answer ' to get te pay '­
are unacceptable. So that while we can fnd cases where ' ony the
man himself can say whether he had a certain intention or not;
they are further limited by this : he cannot profess not to have
had the intention of doing the thing that was a means to an end
of his.
All this, I think, serves to explain what Wittgenstein says at
§644 of Philosophical Investigations :
, " I am not ashamed of what I did then, but of te
intention which I had ". And didn't the intention reside
INTENTION § Z 5 -z6
also in what I did ? What j ustifes the shame ? The whole
history of the incident. '
And against the background of the qualifications we have
introduced, we can epitomize the point by saying ' Roughly
speaking, a man intends to do what he does '. But of course
tat is ve
r
roughly speaking. It is right to formulate it, however,
as a antidote against the absurd thesis which is sometimes main­
tained: that a man's intended action is only described by describ­
ing his obective.
The question arises : what can be the interest of the intention
of the ma we have described, who was only doing his usual
j ob, etc. ? It is certainly not an ethical or legal interest ; if what
he said was true, that will not absolve him from guilt of murder I
We just are interested in what is true about a man in this kind of
way. Here again Wittgenstein says something relevant, in his
discussion of ' I was going to ' :
, Why do I want to tell him about an intention too, as
well as telling him what I did ? . . . because I want to tell
him something about mysel which goes beyond what
happened at that time. I reveal to him something of myself
when I tell him what I was going to do.-Not, however, on
grounds of self-observation, but by way of a response (it
mght also be called an intuition). '
(Philosophical Investigations, §65
9
).
Wittgenstei is presumably thinking of a response, or reaction,
to the memory of ' that time ' ; in the context of our interests, we
can think of it as a response to our special question ' Why ? '.
z6. Let us now return to the question with which we
ended §Z
3
: Are we to say that the man who (intentionally) moves
his arm, operates the pump, replenishes the water supply, poisons
the inhabitants, is performing four actions ? Or only one ?
The answer that we imagined to the question ' Why ? ' brings it
out that the four descriptions form a series, A-B-C-D, in
whch each description is introduced as dependent on the
previous one, though independent of the following one. Then
i s B a description of A, C of B, and so on? Not if that means
tat we can see that ' he is operating the pump ' is another
INTNTION § 26
description of what is here also described by , he is moving his
arm up and down '-in such a way that is, that what verifes the
latter, in this case, also verifes the former. On the other hand, if
we say there are four actions, we shall fnd that the only acton
that B consists in here is A; and so on. Only, more circumstances
are required for A to be B than for A just to be A. And far more
circumstances for A to be D, than for A to be B. But these
circumstances need not include any particularly recent action
of the man who is said to do A, B, C and D (although we
made it a cumulative poison, for present purposes we can
suppose that a single pumping is enough to do the trick). In
short, the only distinct action of his that is in question is this
one, A. For moving his arm up and down with his fngers round
the pump handle is, in these circumstances, operating the pump;
and, in these circumstances, it is replenishing the house water­
supply; and, in these circumstances, it is poisoning the household.
So there is one action with four descriptions, each dependent
on wider circumstances, and each related to the next as description
of means to end; which means that we can speak equally well
of jOlr corresponding intentions, or of one intention-the last
term that we have brought in in the series. By making it the last
term so far brought in, we have given it the character of being
the intention (so far discovered) with which the act in its other
descriptions was done. Thus when we speak of four intentions,
we are speaking of the character of being intentional that belongs
to the act in each of the four descriptions ; but when we speak
of one intention, we are speaking of intention wih which; the
last term we give in such a series gives the intention with which
the act in each of its other descriptions was done, and this
intention so to speak swallows up all the preceding intentions
with which earlier members of the series were done. The mark
of this swallowing up
,
is that it is not wrong to give D as the
answer to the question Why? ' about A; A's being done with
B as intention does not mean that D is only indirectly the inten­
tion of A, as, if I press on something which is pressing on some­
thing . . . which is pressing against a wall, I am only indirectly
pressing against the wall. If D is given as the answer to the
question ' Why ? ' about A, B and C can make an appearance in
answer to a question ' How? '. When terms are related in this
INTENTION § 26-2
7
4
7
fashion, they constitute a series of means, the last term of which
is, just by being given as the last, so far treated as end.
A term falling outside the series A-D may be a term in
another series with some of the members A, B, C in it : for
example, if the man is beating out the rhythm of God Save the
King in the clicking of the pump. The intention of doing so
with which he moves his arm up and down is not ' swallowed up
,
by the intention of D (beating out that rhythm is not how he
pumps the water) ; and the mark of this is that i the question
' Wy are you moving your arm up and down? ' receives as
answer ' To click out the rhythm of God Save the King ', the
answer to ' Why? ' asked about this action does not lead to D.
Another implcation of what I call ' swallowing up ' is
that nothing defnite has to hold about how man terms we put
between A and D; for example, in the imagined case we did not
put in a term ' making the water fow along the pipes ', which
yet would take its place in the series i anyone tought of asking
the question ' Why? ' about it.
17. Is there ever a place for an interior act of intention? I
suppose that the man I imagined, who said ' I was only doing
my usual job ', might fd this formula and administer it to
himself in the present tense at some stage of his activities.
However, if he does this, we notice that the question immediately
arises : with what intention does he do it ? Ths question would
aways arise about aytg which was deliberately performed
as a act of intending ' . The answer i this case might be ' So
that I don't have to consider whose side I am on '. Thus the
interior performance has not secured what you might have
thought, namely that the man's action in pumping the water is
just doing hs usual job; it is itself a new action, like clicking out
the rhytm of God Save the King on the pump. It is i fact only
if the thought ' I'm only doing my usual job ' is spontaneous
rather than deliberate that its occurrence has some face-value
relevance to the question what the man's intentions really are.
And when spontaneous, it is subject to those tests for truthfulness,
which, as we saw, applied to the same form of words given
as an explanation after the event ; and given that it survives all
the same exteral tests, it comes under the same last deter-
INTENTION § 27
mination: In the end only you can know whether that is your
intention or not ' ; that means only: there comes a point where a
man can say , This is my intention', and no one else can con­
tribute anything to settle the matter. (It does not mean that when
he says ' This is my intention', he is evincing a knowledge
available only to him. I.e. here ' knows ' only means ' can say '.
Unless indeed we imagine a case where it could be said: he
thought ths was his intention, but it became clear that he was
deceived.) The only new possibility would be one of elciting
some obviously genuine reaction by saying such tings as (to
give crude examples) : ' Well, then you won't be much interested
to hear that the poison is old and won't work' ; or ' Then you
won't be claiming a share in a great sum wit which someone
wishes to reward the conspirators '. This sort of thing is of
course a stock way of bringing out pretences, often met with in
literature-.g. the deaf man who hears dearly what he ought
not to-and in life pretences are no doubt discerned by skilled
psychological detectives. But there comes a point at which the
skll of psychological detectives has no criteria for its own
success. For, after al, probing questions may lead a man to
pretend something new, instead of revealing what was there
already. So perhaps no concrete inferences as to matters of fact
whch are quite simply testable can be drawn from the detectives'
verdicts. One may feel that the verdict is right ; that te man who
gives it has ' insight '. But, as Wittgenstein put it (Philosophial
Inestgations, p. 1 28) the consequences here are of a difuse kind.
' The diference of attitude that one has' would be a difuse
consequence; or if you want ' consequence ' to mean ' inference ',
the nuances in relationships with others in the plot that you will
expect the man to have later; the atmosphere between him and
them, and similar things.
We can imagine an intention which is a purely interior matter
nevertheless changing the whole character of certain things. A
contemptuous thought might enter a man's mind so that he meant
his polite and afectionate behaviour to someone on a particular
occasion only ironically, without there being any outward sign
of this (for perhaps he did not venture to give any outward sign).
There need not be any specifc history, or any consequences, in
the light of which an outside observer could see the forms of
INTENTION § 2
7
-28
4
9
afection as ironically meant; for as far as concerns history, it is
always possible to fnd things to despise in people without any
very special story issuing in contempt on this occasion; and
afterwards he might change his mind, think of the episode as an odd
aberration, and never turn future occasions into a development
of it. Let us suppose that the thought in his mind is ' you silly
little twit l ' Now here too, it is not enough that these words
should occur to him. He has to mean them. This shews once
more, that you cannot take any performance (even an interior
performance) as itself an act of intention; for if you describe a
performance, the fact that it has taken place is not a proof of
intention; words for example may occur in somebody's mind
without his meaning them. So intention is never a performance
in the mind, though in some matters a performance in the mind
whch is seriously meant may make a diference to the correct
account of the man's action-.g. in embracing someone. But
te matters in question are necessarily ones in which outward
acs are ' signifcant ' in some way.
28. We must now look more closely into the formula which
has so constantly occurred in this investigation: ' known without
observation '. This had its frst applcation to the position of
one's limbs and certain movements, such as the muscular spasm
in falling asleep. It is not ordinarily possible to fnd anything
tat shows one tat one's leg is bent. It may indeed be tat it is
because one has sensations that one knows ths ; but that does
not mean tat one knows it by identifying the sensations one has.
With the exterior senses it is usually possible to do this. I mean
tat if a man says he saw a man standing in a certain place, or
heard someone moving about, or felt an insect crawling over him,
it is possible at least to ask whether he misjudged an appearance,
a sound, or a feelig; that is, we can say: Look, isn't this perhaps
what you saw? and reproduce a visual efect of which he may say:
' Yes, that is, or could be, what I saw, and I admt I can't be sure
of more than that ' ; and the same with the sound or the feeling.1
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� o INTENTION § 2 8
But with e.g. the position of one's limbs it is otherwise than with
the external senses. If a man says that his leg is bent when it is
lying straight out, it would be incorrect to say that he had mis­
judged an inner kinaesthetic appearance as an appearance of his
leg bent, when in fact what was appearing to him was his leg
stretched out. (This topic is certainly a difcult one, deserving a
fuller discussion; here, however, such a discussion would be out
of place). This consideration, assuming its correctness, is enough
to justify saying that normally one does not know the position or
movement of one's limbs ' by observation '.
In enquiring into intentional action, however, I have used
ths formula quite generally, and the following objection will
very likely have occurred to a reader : ' Known without observa­
ton ' may very well be a justifable formula for knowledge of
te position and movements of one's limbs, but you have spoken
of alintentional action as falling under this concept. Now it may
be e.g. that one paints a wall yellow, meaning to do so. But is
it reasonable to say that one ' knows without observation '
tat one is painting a wall yellow? And similarly for all sorts of
actions : any actions that is, that are described under any aspect
beyond that of bodily movements.
My reply is that the topic of an intention may be matter on
which there is knowledge or opinion based on observation,
inference, hearsay, superstition or anything that knowledge or
opion ever are based on; or again matter on which an opinion
is held without any foundation at all. When knowledge or
opinon are present concering what is the case, and what can
happen-say Z-if one does certain things, say ABC, then it is
possible to have the intention of doing Z in doing ABC; and if
the case is one of knowledge or if the opinion is correct, then
doing or causing Z is an intentional action, and it is not by
observation that one knows one is doing Z; or in so far as one
is observing, inferring etc. that Z is actually taking place, one's
knowledge is not the knowledge that a man has of his intentional
actions. By the knowledge that a man has of his intentional
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INTENTION § 28-29
actions I mean the knowledge that one denies having if when
asked e.g. ' Why are you ringing that bell ? ' one replies ' Good
heavens ! I didn't know I was ringing it ! '
This is difcult. Say I go over to the window and open it.
Someone who hears me moving calls out : What are you doing
making that noise ? I reply ' Opening the window '. I have
called such a statement knowledge all along; and precisely
recause in such a case what I say is true-I do open the window;
and that means that the window is getting opened by the move­
ments of the body out of whose mouth those words come.
But I don't say the words like this : ' Let me see, what is this
body bringing about ? Ah yes ! the opening of the window '.
Or even like this ' Let me see, what are my movements bringing
about ? The opening of the window '. To see this, if it is not
already plain, contrast this case with the following one : I open
the window and it focuses a spot of light on the wall. Someone
who cannot see me but can see the wall, says ' What are you doing
making that light come on the wall ? ' and I say 'Ah yes, it's
opening the window that does it ', or ' That always happens
when one opens that window at midday if the sun is shining.'
29. The difculty however is this : What can opening the
window be except making such-and-such movements wirh
such-and-such a result ? And in that case what can knowing one
is opening the window be except knowing that tat is taking
place ? Now if there are two w's of knowing here, one of which
I call knowledge of one's intentional action and the other of
which I call knowledge by observation of what takes place, then
must there not be two obects of knowledge ? How can one speak
of two diferent knowledges of exactl the same thing? It i s
not that there are two descriptions of the same thing, both of
which are kr'lwn, as when one knows that something is red
and that it is coloured; no, here the description, opening the
window, is identical, whether it is known by observation or by
its being one's intentional action.
I think that it is the difculty of this question that has led
some people to say that what one knows as intentional action i s
only the intention, !Î possibly also the bodily movement ; and
that the rest is known by observation to be the rmIt, which was
INiENTION § 29
also willed in the intention. But that is a mad account ; for the
only sense I can give to ' willing ' is that in which I might stare
at something and will it to move. People sometimes say that one
can get one's arm to move by an act of will but not a matchbox;
but if they mean ' Will a matchbox to move and it won't ', the
answer is ' If I will my arm to move in that way, it won't " and
if they mean ' I can move my arm but not the matchbox ' the
answer is that I can move the matchbox-nothing easier.
Another false avenue of escape is to say that I really' do ' in
the intentional sense whatever I think I am doing. E.g. if I
think I am moving my toe, but it is not actually moving, then I
am ' moving my toe' in a certain sense, and as for what happens,
of course I haven't any control over that except in an accidental
sense. The essential thing is just what has gone on in me, and if
what happens coincides with what I ' do ' in the sphere of inten­
tions, that is just a grace of fate. This I think was Wittgenstein's
thought in the Tractatus when he wrote : ' The world is inde­
pendent of my will ' and
'Even if what we wish were always to happen, this
would only be a grace of fate, for it is not any logical con­
nexion between will and the world that would guarantee
tis, and as for the presumed physical connexion, we cannot
will that.' (6.373, 6.374).
That is to say : assuming it not to exist, willing it will be inefectual.
And I thnk that this reasoning applies to the efectiveness of an
ac of will. Hence Wittgenstein wrote in his notebooks at this
time : ' I am completely powerless'.
But ths is nonsense too. For if nothing guarantees that the
window gets opened when I ' opened the window', equally noth­
ing guarantees that my toe moves when I ' move my toe' ; so the
only thing that does happen is my intention; but where is that
to be found? I mean: what is its vehicle? Is it formulated i
words? And if so, what guarantees that I do form the words
that I intend? for the formulation of the words is itself an
intentional act. And if the intention has no vehicle that is guaran­
teed, then what is there left for it to be but a bombination in a
vacuum?
I myself formerly, in considering these problems, came out
with the formula : I do what happens. That is to say, when the
description of what happens is the very thing which I should
say I was doing, then there is no distinction between my doing
and the thing's happening. But everyone who heard this formula
found it extremely paradoxical and obscure. And I think the
reason is this : what happens must be given by observation; but
I have argued that my knowledge of what I do i s not by observ­
ation. A very clear and interesting case of this is that in which
I shut my eyes and write something. I can say what I am writing.
And what I say I am writing will almost always in fact appear on
the paper. Now here it is clear that my capacity to say what is
written is not derived from any observation. In practice of
course what I write will very likely not go on being very legible
if I don't use my eyes ; but isn't the role of all our observation­
knowledge in knowing what we are doing like the role of the
eyes in producing successful writing? That is to say, once given
that we have knowledge or opinion about the matter in which
we perform intentional actions, our observation is merely an aid,
as the eyes are an aid in writing. Someone without eyes may
go on writing with a pen that has no more ink in it ; or may not
realise he is going over the edge of the paper on to the table or
overwriting lines already written; here is where the eyes are
useful ; but the essential thing he does, namely to write such-and­
such, is done without the eyes. So without the eyes he knows
what he writes ; but the eyes help to assure him that what he
writes actually gets legibly written. In face of ths how can I say:
J do what happens ? If there are two ways of knowing there must
be two diferent things known.
30. Before I make an end of raIsIng difculties, I will
produce an example which shews that it is an error to try to push
what is known by being the content of intention back and back;
frst to the bodily movement, then perhaps to the contraction of
the muscles, then to the attempt to do the thing, which comes
right at the beginning. The only description that I clearly know
of what I am doing may be of something that is at a distance
from me. It is not the case that I clearly know the movements I
make, and the intention is just a result which I calculate and hope
will follow on these movements.
Someone might express the view I reject by saying: Consider
5
4
INTENTION § 30-3 Ï
the sentence ' I am pushing the boat out ' . Here, the only
part of the sentence which really expresses the known action
in this intentional action is ' I am pushing '. The words ' the
boat ' express an opinion on an object which I take to be just
in front of me ; and that is verified by the senses, i.e. it is a
matter of observation. The word ' out ' expresses intention with
which I am pushing because it expresses an opinion as to an
efct of my pushing in these circumstances, which opinion is
accompanied by a desire on my part. And this must be the model
for analysing every description of an intentional action.
My example to refute such a view is this. Imagine raising the
following rather curious question: Is there any diference between
letting one's arm drop and lowering one's arm at the speed at
which it would fall ? Can I deliberately lower my arm at the
speed at which it would fall ? I should fd it difcult to make
that the title under which I acted. But suppose someone simply
wanted to produce the efect that in fact I lowered my arm at the
speed at which it would fall-he is a physiologist, and wants to
see if I generate anything df erent in the nerve fbres if I do ts.
So he fxes up a mechanism in which something in motion can be
kept level if I hold a handle and execute a pumping movement
with my arm and on the downward stroke lower it at the rate
at which it would fall. Now my instruction is : Keep it level, and
with a bit of practice I learn to do so. My account of what I am
doing is that I am keeping the thing level ; I don't consider the
movement of my arm at all. I am able to give a much more
exact account of what I am doing at a distance than of what my
arm is doing. So my keeping the thing level is not at all something
which I calculate as the efect of what I really and immediately
am doing, and therefore directly know in my ' knowledge of
my own action '. In general, as Aristotle says, one does not
deliberate about an acquired skill ; the description of what one is
doing, which one completely understands, is at a distance from
the details of one's movements, which one does not consider at
all.
3 I. Having raised enough difculties, let us try to sketch a
solution, and let us frst ask: What is the contradictory of a
INTENTION § 3 1
description of one's own intentional action? Is it ' You aren't,
in fact ' ?-E.g. ' You aren't replenishing the house water supply,
because the water is running out of a hole in the pipe ' ? I suggest
that it is not. To see this, consider the following story, which
appeared for the pleasure of readers of the New Statesman's
, This ;ngland ' column. A certain soldier was court-martialled
(or something of the sort) for insubordinate behaviour. He had,
it seems, been ' abusive ' at his medical examination. The
examining doctor had told him to clench his teeth; whereupon he
took them out, handed them to the doctor and said ' You clench
them '.
Now the statement : ' The water is running out of a pipe
round the corner ' stands in the same relation to the statement
' I' m replenishing the house water-supply ' as does ' My teeth
are false ' to the order ' Clench your teeth ' ; and so the statement
(on grounds of observation) , You are not replenishing the house
water-supply ' stands in the same relation to the description of
intentional action ' I am replenishing the house water-supply ',
as does the well-founded prediction ' This man isn't going to
clench his teeth, sice they are false ' to the order ' Clench your
teeth ' . And just as the contradiction of the order: ' Clench your
teeth ' is not ' The man, as is clear from the following evidence, is
not going to do any clenching of teeth, at least of the sort you
mean " but ' Do not clench your teeth '. so the contradiction of
, I'm replenishing the house water-supply ' is not ' You aren't,
since tere is a hole in the pipe ', but ' Oh, no, you aren't ' said
by someone who thereupon sets out e.g. to make a hole in the
pipe with a pick-axe. And similarly, if a person says ' I am going
to bed at midnight ' the contradiction of this is not : ' You
won't, for you never keep such resolutions ' but ' You won't,
for I am going to stop you '.
But, returning to the order and the description by the agent
of his present intentional action, is there not a point at which the
parallelism ceases : namely, just where we begin to speak of
knowledge ? For we say that the agent's description is a piece of
knowledge, but an order is not a piece of knowledge. So though
the parallelism is interesting and illuminates the periphery of the
problem, it fails at the centre and leaves that in the darkness that
we have found ourselves in.
INTENl'ION § 3 2
p. Let us consider a man going round a town with a shop­
ping list in his hand. Now it is clear that the relation of this list
to the things he actually buys is one and the same whether his
wife gave him the list or it is his own list ; and that there is a
diferent relation when a list is made by a detective following him
about. If he made the list itself, it was an expression of intention;
if his wife gave it him, it has the role of an order. What then i s
the identical relation to what happens, i n the . order and the
intention, which is not shared by the record? It is precisely this :
if the list and the things that the man actually buys do not agree,
and if this and this alone constitutes a mistake, then the mistake
is not in the list but in the man's performance (if his wife were to
say: ' Look, it says butter and you have bought margarine ', he
would hardly reply : ' Wat a mistake I we must put that right '
and alter the word on the list to ' margarine ') ; whereas if the
detective's record and what the man actually buys do not agree,
then the mistake is i the record.
In the case of a discrepancy between the shopping list and
what the man buys, I have to introduce the qualification:
If this and this alone constitutes a mistake. For the discrepancy
might arise because some of the things were not to be had and if
one might have known they were not to be had, we might speak
of a mistake (an error of judgment) in constructing the list. If
I go out in Oxford with a shopping list including tackle for
catching sharks ', no one will think of it as a mistake in perform­
ance that I fail to come back with it. And then again there may
be a discrepancy between the list and what the man bought
because he changed his mind and decided to buy something
else instead.
This last discrepancy of course only arises when the descrip­
tion is of a future action. The case that we now want to consider
is that of an agent who says what he is at present doing. Now
suppose what he says is not true. It may be untrue because,
unknown to the agent, somethng is not the case which would
have to be the case in order for his statement to be true ; as when,
unknown to the man pumping, there was a hole in the pipe
round the corner. But as I said, this relates to his statement
that he is replenishing the water-supply as does the fact that the
man has no teeth of his own to the order ' Clench your teeth' ;
INTENTION § 3 2-3 3
that is, we may say that i n face of i t his statement falls to the
ground, as in that case the order falls to the ground, but it i s
not a direct contradiction. But is there not possible another
case in which a man is simpl
y
not doing what he says ? As when
I say to myself ' Now I press Button A'-pressing Button B-a
thing which can certainly happen. This I will call the direct
falsifcation of what I say. And here, to use Theophrastus'
expression again, the mistake is not one of judgment but of
performance. That i s, we do not say : What you said was a mis­
take, because it was supposed to describe what you did and did
not describe it, but : What you did was a mistake, because it
was not in accordance with what you said.
It is precisely analogous to obeying an order wrong-and
we ought to be struck by the fact that there is such a thing, and
that it is not the same as ignoring, disregarding, or disobeying
an order. If the order is given ' Left turn I ' and the man turns
right, there can be clear signs that this was not an act of disobedi­
ence. But there is a discrepancy between the language and that of
which the language is a description. But the discrepancy does
not impute a fault to the language-but to the event.
Can it be that there is something that modern philosophy has
blankly misunderstood: namely what ancient and medieval
philosophers meant by practical knowledge ? Certainly in modern
philosophy we have an incorrigibly contemplative conception of
knowledge. Knowledge must be something that is judged as
such by being in accordance with the facts. The facts, reality, are
prior, and dictate what is to be said, if it is knowledge. And this
is the explanation of the utter darkness in which we found
ourselves. For if there are two know ledges-one by observation,
te other in intention-then it looks as if there must be two objects
of knowledge; but if one says the objects are the same, one looks
hopelessly for the diferent mode of contemplative knowledge in
acting, as if there were a very queer and special sort of seeing
eye in the middle of the acting.
3 3 . The notion of ' practical knowledge ' can only be
understood if we frst understand ' practical reasoning '. ' Prac­
tical reasonig ', or ' practical syllogism' , which means the same
� 8 INTENTION § 3 3
thing, was one of Aristotle's best discoveries. But its true
character has been obscured. It is commonly supposed to be
ordinary reasoning leading to such a conclusion as : ' I ought to
do such-and-such. ' By ' ordinary reasoning ' I mean the only
reasoning ordinarily considered in philosophy: reasoning towards
the truth of a proposition, which is supposedly shewn to be true
by the premises. Thus : ' Everyone with money ought to give to
a beggar who asks him; tlus man asking me for money is a
beggar ; I have money; so I ought to give this man some '. Here
the conclusion is entailed by the premises. So it is proved by
them, unless they are doubtful. Perhaps such premises never can
be certain.
Contemplating the accounts given by moder commentators,
one might easily wonder why no one has ever pointed out the
mince pie syllogism: the peculiarity of this would be that it was
about mince pies, and an example would be 'All mince pies have
suet in them-this is a mince pie-therefore etc. ' Certainly
ethics is of importance to human beings in a way that mice pies
are not ; but such importance cannot justify us in speaking of a
special sort of reasoning. Everyone takes the practical sylogism
to be a proof-granted the premises and saving their inevitable
uncertainty or doubtfulness in application-of a conclusion. This
is so whether Aristotle's own example has been taken:
Dry food suits any human
Such-and-such food is dry
I am human
This is a bit of such-and-such food
yielding the conclusion
This food suits me
or whether, adopting a style of treatment suggested by some
modern authors, the frst premise is given in an imperative
form. We may note that authors always use the term ' major '
and ' minor ' of the premises of practical syllogism: having regard
to the defnition of these terms, we can see that they have no
application to Aristotle's practical syllogism, though they could
be adapted to the imperative form if we assimilate ' Do I to the
predicate of a proposition. Consider the following:
Do everything conducive to not having a car crash.
Such-and-such will be conducive to not having a car crash.
Ergo : Do such-and-such.
INTENTION § 3 3
5 9
Both this and the Aristotelian example given before would
necessitate the conclusion. Someone professing to accept the
opening order and the factual premise i the imperative example
must accept its conclusion, just as someone believing the pre­
mises in the categorical example must accept its conclusion.
The frst example has the advantage of actually being Aristotle's,
apart from the conclusion, but the disadvantage, so far as its
being practical is concerned, that though the conclusion is
necessitated, nothing seems to follow about doing anything.
Many authors have pointed this out, but have usually put it
rather vaguely, saying, e.g. that the reasoning does not compel
any action; but Aristotle appears to envisage an action as
following. The vague accounts that I have mentioned can be
given a quite sharp sense. It is obvious that I can decide, on
general grounds about colouring and so on, that a certain dress
in a shop window would suit me very well, without its following
tat I can be accused of some kind of inconsistency with what
I have decided if I do not thereupon go in and buy it; even if
there are no impediments, such as shortage of cash, at all. The
syllogism in the imperative form avoids this disadvantage ;
someone professing to accept the premises will be inconsistent
if, when nothing intervenes to prevent him, he fails to act on the
particlar order with which the argument ends. But this syllog­
ism sufers from the disadvantage that the frst, universal, premise
is an insane one,l which no one could accept for a moment if he
thought out what it meant. For there are usually a hundred
diferent and incompatible things conducive to not having a car
crash; such as, perhaps, driving into the private gateway immedi­
ately on your left and abandoning your car there, and driving
into the private gateway immediately on your right and abandon­
ing the car there.
The cause of this mischief, though it is not entirely his fault, is
Aristotle himself. For he himself distinguished reasoning by
subject matter as scientifc and practical. ' Demonstrative '
reasoning was scientifc and concerned what is invariable. As i
one could not reason about some particular non-necessary thing
that was going to happen except with a view to action I ' J ohn
" No author, of course, has proposed this syUogism. Í am indebted for the idea
of it, however, to a passage in Mr. R. M. Hare's book, The Language ofMoral, p. � 5 .
60 INTENTION § 3 3
will drive from Chartres to Paris at an average of sixty m.p.h., he
starts around five, Paris is sixty miles from Chartres, therefore
he will arrive at about six ' -this will not be what Aristotle calls
a ' demonstration ' because, if we ask the question what John
will do, that is certainly capable of turning out one way or
another. But for all that the reasoning is an argument that
something is true. It is not practical reasoning: it has not the
form of a calculation what to do, though like any other piece of
, theoretical ' argument it could play a part in such a calculation.
Thus we may accept from Aristotle that practical reasoning is
essentially concerned with ' what is capable of turning out
variously ', without thinking that this subject matter is enough to
make reasoning about it practical. There is a diference of form
between reasoning leading to action and reasoning for the truth
of a conclusion. Aristotle however liked to stress the similarity
between the kinds of reasoning, sayingl that what ' happens ' is
the same in both. There are indeed three types of case. There is
the theoretical syllogism and also the idle practical syllogism2
which is just a classroom example. In both of these the conclusion
is ' said ' by the mind which infers it. And there is the practical
syllogism proper. Here the conclusion is an action whose point
is shewn by the premises, which are now, so to speak, on active
service. When Aristotle says that what happens is the same, he
seems to mean that it is always the same psychical mechanism by
which a conclusion is elicited. He also displays practical syllog­
isms so as to make them look as parallel as possible to proof
syllogisms.
Let us imitate one of his classroom examples, giving it a
plausible modern content :
Vitamin X is good for all men over 60
Pigs' tripes are full of vitamin X
I'm a man over 60
Here's some pigs' tripes.
Aristotle seldom states the conclusion of a practical syllogism, and
sometimes speaks of it as an action; so we may suppose the man
who has been thinking on these lines to take some of the dish
that he sees. But there is of course no obj ection to inventing a
'V, MO/I Anima/ilm VI. IE/hi(a Nicoma(h8o 1147a, 27-8.
INTENTION § 3 3 6 1
form of words by which he accompanies this action, which we may
call the conclusion in a verbalised form. We may render it as :
(a) So I'll have some
or (b) So I'd better have some.
or (c) So it'd be a good thing for me to have some.
Now certainly no one could be tempted to think of (a) as a
proposition entailed by the premises. But neither are (b) and (c),
though at frst sight they look roughly similar to the kind of
conclusion which commentators usually give :
What's here is good for me.
But of course in the sense in which this is entailed by the premises
as they intend it to be, this only means : ' What's here is a type of
food that is good for me " whch is far from meaning that I'd
better have some. Now the reason why we cannot extract ' I'd
better have some ' from the premises is not at all that we coul not
i any case construct premises which, if assented to, yield this
concusion. For we could, easily. We only need to alter the
universal premise slightly, to:
It is necessary for all men over 60 to eat any food con-
taining Vitamin X that they ever come across
which, with the other premises, would entail the conclusion in
the form ' I'd better have some ' quite satisfactorily. The only
obj ection is that the premise is insane, as would have been the
corresponding variant on Aristotle's universal premise :
Every human being needs to eat al the dry food he
ever sees.
In short the ' universality ' of Aristotle's universal premise is
in the wrong place to yield the conclusion by way of entailment
at all.
Only negative general premises can hope to avoid insanity
of this sort. Now these, even if accepted as practical premises,
don't lead to any particular actions (at least, not by themselves
or by any formal process) but only to not doing certain tl1ings.
But what Aristotle meant by practical reasoning certainly in-
62 INTENTION § 3 3-34
eluded reasoning that led to action, not to omissions. Now a man
who goes through such considerations as those about Vitamin X
and ends up by takg some of the dish that he sees, saying e. g.
' So I suppose I'd better have some ', can certainly be said to be
reasoning; on the other hand, it is clear that this is another type of
reasoning than reasoning from premises to a conclusion which
they prove. And I think it is even safe to say that (except in, say,
doing arithmetic or dancing, i. e. in skills or arts-what Aristotle
would call T€ xvat) there is no general positive rule of the form
'Always do X ' or ' Doing X is always good-required-con­
venient-, a useful-suitable-etc.-thing ' (where the ' X '
describes some specifc action) which a sane person will accept
as a starting-point for reasoning out what to do in a particular
case. (Unless, indeed, it is hemmed about by saving clauses like
, if the circumstances don't include something that would make it
foolish '.) Thus though general considerations, like ' Vitamin
C is good for people ' (which of course is a matter of medical
fact) may easily occur to someone who is considering what he
is going to eat, considerations of the form ' Doing such-ad-s1
1
ch
quite specifc things in such-and-such circumstances is always
suitable ' are never, if taken strictly, possible at all for a sane
person, outside special arts.
34. But, we may ask, even i we want to follow Aristotle,
need we confne the term ' practical reasoning ' to pieces of
practical reasoning whch look very parallel to proof-reason­
ings ? For ' I want a Jersey cow; there are good ones in the
Hereford market, so I'll go there ' would seem to be practical
reasoning too. Or ' If I invite both X and Y, there'll be a strained
atmosphere in view of what X has recently said about Y and
how Y feels about it-so I' ll just ask X '. Or again ' So-and-so
was very pleasant last time we met, so I'll pay him a visit '. Now
Aristotle would have remarked that it is mere ' desire ' in a special
sense (E1t8ufta) that prompts the acton in the last case; the mark
of this is that the premise refers to something merely as pleasant.
The point that he is making here is, however, rather alien to us,
since we do not make much distinction between one sort of
desire and another, and we should say: isn't it desire in some
sense-i.e. wanting-that prompts the action in all the cases ?
INTENTION §
H-
3
S
And ' all cases ', of course, includes ones that have as large an
apparatus as one pleases of generalisations about morals, or
medicine, or cookery, or methods of study, or methods of getting
votes or securing law and order, together with the identifcation
of cases.
This is so, of course, and is a point insisted on by Aristotle
hmself: the cpX

(startng point) is 'O OpfK'6v (the thing wanted).
For example, the fact that current school geometry text books
all give a faulty proof of the theorem about the base angles of an
isosceles triangle will not lead a teacher to discard them or to
make a point of disabusig his class, if he does not want to
impart onl correct geometrical proofs. He will say that it doesn't
matter; the Euclidean proof, Pons Asinorum, is too difcult ; i
any case Euclid starts (he may say) with the unjustifed assumption
that a certain pair of circles will cut ; and are you going to suggest
worries about the axiom of parallels to school children and try
to teach them non-Euclidean geometry ? and much else of the
sort. All this obscures the essential point, which is that, rightly
or wrongly, he does not want to impart onl correct geometrical
reasoning. It then becomes relevant to ask what he does want to
do. Let us suppose that he is reasonably frank and says he wants
to keep his job, occupy his time in ' teaching ', and earn his
salary.
This question ' What do you want ? ' was not a question out
of the blue, lke ' What are the things you want in life ? ' asked
in a general way at the freside. In context, it is the question
, With a view to what are you doing X, Y and Z? which are
what he is doing. That is to say, it is a form of our question
, Why ? ' but with a slightly altered appearance. If a man is asked
this question about what he is doing, that ' with a view to which '
he does it is always beyond the break at which we stopped in
§
23. For even if a man ' is doing ' what he ' wants " like our
imaginary teacher, he has never completely attained it, unless by
the termination of the time for which he wants it (which might be
the term of his life).
3 5 . In four practical syllogisms that Aristotle gives us, there
occur the expressions ' it suits ', ' should ', and • pleasant ' .
The four universal premises in question are :
INTENTION § 3 �
(a) Dry food suits any man
(b) [1] should taste everythig sweet
(c) Anything sweet is pleasant
(d) Such a one should do such a thing
The frst three come from the Nicomachean Ethics, the fourth
from the De Anima; in the De Anima Aristotle is discussing
what sets a human being in physical motion, and this universal
(d) is just a schema of a universal premise. The occurrence of
, should ' in it has no doubt helped the view that the practical
syllogism is essentially ethical, but the view has no plausibility;
this is not an ethical passage, and Aristotle nowhere suggests
that the starting point is anything but something wanted. In
thinking of the word for ' should ' ' ought ' etc. (Sd) as it
occurs in Aristotle, we should think of it as it occurs in ordinary
language (e.g. as it has just occurred in this sentence) and not just
as it occurs in the examples of ' moral discourse ' given by moral
philosophers. That athletes should keep in training, pregnant
women watch their weight, flm stars their publicity, that one
should brush one's teeth, that one should (not) be fastidious
about one's pleasures, that one should (not) tell ' necessary ' lies,
that chairmen in diSCSSIons should tactfully suppress irrelevancies,
that someone learning arithmetic should practise a certain
neatness, that machinery needs lubrication, that meals ought to
be punctual, that we should (not) see the methods of
'
Linguistic
Analysis' in Aristotle's philosophy; any fair selection of examples,
if we care to summon them up, should convince us that ' should'
is a rather light word with unlimited contexts of application, and
it can be presumed that it is because of this feature that Aristotle
chose a roughly corresponding Greek word as the word to put
into the universal premise of hi s schematic practical syllogism.
Case (b) appears to presuppose a situation where one is given
this premise-it i s, say, an instruction to an undercook in a
kitchen in a special eventuality. Aristotle is herel giving us a
futile mechanistic theory of how premises work to produce a
conclusion: e. g. given this curious premise and the information
, this is sweet ' together, the action of tasting it is mechanically
produced if there is nothing to stop it. We notice that this
" Elhka Nkomachea 1 147a 28.
INTENTION § 3 S
premise has the universality required to necessitate the
conclusion for someone who accepts it ; just for that reason it is
absurd unless restricted to a particular situation-r unless we
are to imagine someone having a sweet tooth to the point of
mania.
Thus there is nothing necessarily ethical about the word
, should ' occurring in te universal premise of a practical
syllogism, at least so far as concerns the remarks made by Aris­
totle who invented the notion. But we fnd ' should ' , suits ' or
, pleasant ' (or some other evaluative term) in all the examples
that he gives, and it is reasonable to ask why. If the starting point
for a practical syllogism is something wanted, then why should
the frst premise not be ' I want . . . ' as in the example ' I want a
Jersey cow ' ? The case as I imagined it is surely one of practical
reasonng.
But it is misleading to put ' I want ' into a premise if we are
giving a formal account of practical reasoning. To understand
this, we need to realise that not everything that I have described
as coming in the range of ' reasons for acting ' can have a place
as a premise in a practical syllogism. E.g. ' He killed my father,
so I shall kill him ' is not a form of reasoning at all ; nor is ' I
admire him so much, I shall sign the petition he is sponsoring '.
The diference is that there is no calculation in these. The con­
junction ' so • is not necessarily a mark of calculation.
It may be said: ' if " he was very pleasant . . . so I shall pay
him a visit " can be called reasoning, why not " I admire . . . so
I shall sign " ? '. The answer is that the former is not a piece of
reasoning or calculation either, if what it suggests is e.g. that I
am making a return for his pleasantness, have this reason for the
kind act of paying a visi t; but if the suggestion is : ' So it will
probably be pleasant to see him again, so I shall pay him a visit "
then it is ; and of course it is only under this aspect that ' desire '
in the restricted sense (€m8vpa) is said to prompt the action.
And similarly: ' I admire . . . and the best way to express this
will be to sign, so I shall sign . . . ' is a case of calculating, and if
that is the thought we can once again speak of practical reasoning.
Of course ' he was pleasant . . . How can I make a retur? . . .
I will visit him ' can occur and so this case assume the form of a
calculation. Here a return, under that descition, becomes the
66
INTENTION § 3 S
object of wish; but what is the meag of ' a retur ' ? The
primitive, spontaneous, form lies behind the formation of the
concept ' return ', which once formed can be made the object of
wish; but in the primitive, spontaneous, case the form is ' he
was nice to me-I will visit him ' ; and similarly with revenge,
though once the concept ' revenge ' exists it can be made the
object, as with Hamlet. We must always remember that an object
is not what what is aimed at is; the description !nder whih it is
aimed at is that under which it is caled the object.
Then ' I want this, so I'll do it ' is not a form of practical
reasoning either. The role of ' wanting ' in the practical syllo­
gism is quite diferent from that of a premise. It is that whatever
is described in the proposition that is the starting-point of te
argument must be wanted in order for the reasoning to lead to
ay action. Then the form ' I want a Jersey cow, they have good
ones in the Hereford market, so I'll go there ' was formally
misconceived: the practical reasoning should just be given in te
form ' They have Jersey cows in the Hereford market, so I'll go
there '. Similarly ' Dry food ' (whatever Aristotle meant by
that; it sounds an odd dietary theory) , suits anyone etc., so I'll
have some of this ' is a piece of reasoning which will go on only
in someone who wants to eat suitable food. That is to say, it
will at any rate terminate in the conclusion only for someone who
wants to eat suitable food. Someone free of any such wish might
indeed calculate or reason up to the conclusion, but leave that
out, or change it to-' So eating this would be a good idea (if I
wanted to eat suitable food). ' Roughly speaking we can say that
the reasoning leading up to an action would enable us to infer
what the man so reasoning wanted-e.g. that he probably wanted
to see, buy, or steal a Jersey cow.
There is a contrast between the two propositions ' They have
some good Jerseys in the Hereford market ' and ' Dry food suits
any man ', supposing that they both occur as practical premises,
i. e. that the man who uses the one sets of for Hereford, and the
man who uses the other takes a bit of the dish that he sees,
believing it to be a bit of some kind of dry food. In the frst case,
there can arise the question ' What do you want a Jersey cow
for ? ' ; but the question ' What do you want suitable food for ? '
means, if anything ' Do give up thinking about food as suitable
or otherwise '-as said e.g. by someone who prefers people
merely to enjoy their food or considers the man hypochondriac.
3
6. It is a familiar doctrine that people can want anything;
that is, that in 'A wants X ' ' X ' ranges over all describable
objects or states of afairs. This is untenable ; for example the
range is restricted to present or future objects and future states of
afairs ; for we are not here concerned with idle wishing. A chief
mark of an idle wish is that a man does nothing-whether he
could or no-towards the fulflment of the wish. Perhaps the
familiar doctrine I have mentioned can be made correct by being
restricted to wishing. The most primitive expression of wishing
is e.g. 'Ah, if only e . . ! '-if only \ were comme
nsurable, or
Helen were still alive, or the sun would blow up, or I could hold
the moon in the palm of my hand, or Troy had not
fallen, or I
were a millionaire. It is a special form of expression, to which a
characteristic tone of voice is appropriate; and i t might be
instructive to ask how such a form is identifed (e.
g. in a language
learnt in use) ; but it does not concern us here.
, Wanting ' may of course be applied to the prick of desire at
the thought or sight of an object, even though a man then does
nothing towards getting the object. Now where an object which
arouses some feeling of longing is some future state of afairs of
which there is at least some prospect, wanting, as the longing
may be called if it is sustained, may be barely disti
ng
uished from
idle wishing; the more the thing is envisaged as a likelihood, the
more wishing turns into wanting-if it does not evaporate at
the possibility. Such wanting is hope. But wanti
ng,
in the sense
of the prick of desire, is compatible with one's doing nothng at
all towards getting what one wants, even though one could do
something; while to hope that something will happen that it is
in one's power to try to bring about, and yet do nothing to bring
it about, is hope of a rather degenerate kind; or hope that it
will happen', though I do none of the things I know I might do
towards it, is rather ' hope that it will happen witholl my doing
anything towards it ' : a diferent object from that
of the frst
hope.
The wanting that interests us, however, is neither wishing
nor hoping nor the feeling of desire, and cannot be said to
68 INTENTION § 36
exist i n a man who does nothing towards gettig what he wants.
The primitive sign of wanting is tring to get; which of course
can only be ascribed to creatures endowed with sensation. Thus
it is not mere movement or stretching out towards something,
but this on the part of a creature that can be said to know the
thing. On the other hand knowledge itself cannot be described
independently of volition ; the ascription of sensible knowledge
and of volition go together. One idea implicit in phenomenalism
has always been that e.g. the knowledge of the meaning of
colour-words is only a matter of picking out and naming certain
perceived diferences and similarities between objects. And this
kind of idea is not dead even though phenomenalism is not
fashionable. A moder Psammetichus, infuenced by epistemo­
logists, might have a child cared for by people whose instructions
were to make no sign to the child in dealng with it, but frequently
to utter the names of the objects and properties which they j udged
to be within its perceptual felds, with a view to fnding out
which were the very frst things or properties that humans learned
to name. But e.g. the identifcation served by colour-names is in
fact not primarily that of colours, but of objects by means of
colours ; and thus, too, the prime mark of colour-discrimination
is doing things with objects-fetching them, carrying them,
placing them-according to their colours. Thus the possession
of sensible discrimination and that of volition are inseparable ;
one cannot describe a creature as having the power of sensation
without also describing it as doing things in accordance with
perceived sensible diferences. (Naturally this does not mean that
every perception must be accompanied by some action; it is
because that is not so that it is possible to form an epistemology
according to which the names of the objects of perception are
just given in some kind of ostensive defnition.)
The primitive sign of wanting is tring to get : in saying this,
we describe the movement of an animal in terms that reach
beyond what the animal is now doing. When a dog smells a
piece of meat that lies the other side of the door, his trying to get
it will be his scratching violently round the edges of the door
and snufing along the bottom of it and so on. Thus there are
two features present in wanting; movement towards a thing
and knowledge (or at least opinion) that the thing is there.
INTENTION §
3
6
When we consider human action, though it is a great deal more
complicated, the same features are present when what is wanted
is something that already exists : such as a particular Jersey cow,
which is presumed to be on sale in the Hereford market, or a
particular woman desired in marriage.
But a man can want Q cow, not any particular cow, or a wife.
This raises a difculty best expressed from the point of view of the
theory of descriptions. For we cannot render 'j\ wants a cow '
as ' It is not always false of x that x is a cow and A wants x
'
.
Nor can we get out of this difculty by introducing belief into
our analysis and then using what Russell says about belief: namely
that 'A believes that a cow is in the garden ' can mean, not, ' It
is not always false of x that 7 is a cow and A believes that 7 is in
the garden ' but 'A believes that it is not always false of 7 . . . '
For, plainly, wanting a cow need not involve a belief ' some cow
is- ' ; and still less does wanting a wife involve a belief ' some
wife of mine is- '. A similar difculty can indeed arise for
animals too: we say the cat is waiting for a mouse at a mousehole,
but suppose there is no mouse ? Here, however, it is reasonable
enough to introduce belief and say that the cat think there is
a mouse : I intend such an expression just as it would quite
naturally be said. And though it seems rather comical to apply
Russell's analysis to the ' thoughts ' of a cat, there is not really
any objection; for our difculty was a logi cal one, about the
status of the denoting phrase ' a mouse ' in the cat is waiting
for a mouse " and not one about what may go on in the souls of
cats ; hence Russell's analysis can be used to dispel the difculty.
And when we say The dog wants a bone ' there is not much
dificulty either ; for we can say that the dog knows that there
are bones in a bag and is excited and so on, or that he always
gets a bone at this time and so is in a state of excitement and
dissatisfaction until he gets one. But when a man wants a wife,
there seems to be greater difculty. We must say : he wants ' It
is not always false of x . . . ' to become true. (Here I depart from
Russell in holding that propositions can be variable in truth­
value; I should do that in any case, on other grounds. But in
consequence the word ' always ' becomes slightly misleading, and
so I would substitute te commoner form: It is not for all x
not the case that . . . )
INTENTION § 36-3
7
Thus the special problems connected with indefnite descrip­
tions do not turn out to create peculiar difculties for an account
of wanting; the difculty here is the general one that arises
when the object of wanting is not anything that exists or that the
agent supposes to exist. For we spoke of two features present
in ' wanting ' : movement towards something, and knowledge,
or at least opinion, that the thing is there. But where the thing
wanted is not even supposed to exist, as when it is a future state
of afairs, we have to speak of an idea, rather than of knowledge
or opinion. And our two features become : some kind of action
or movement which (the agent at least supposes) is of use towards
something, and the idea of that thing.
The other senses of ' wanting ' which we have noticed are not
of any interest in a study of action and intention.
37. Are there any further restrictions, besides the ones we
have mentioned, on possible objects of wanting, when the idea
of the thing that is (in fact) wanted is expressed in the frst
premise of a practical syllogism? There are, we may say, no
further absolute restrictions, but there are some relative ones.
For, as I have remarked, if ' There are good Jerseys in the Here­
ford market ' is used as a premise, then it can be asked ' What
do you want a Jersey for ? '. Let the answer be : 'A Jersey would
suit my needs well ' . -And it is in fact this or a form of this, that
Aristotle would accept as frst premise : the reasoning in his
chosen form would run:
'
( I ) Any farmer with a farm like mine
could do with a cow of such-and-such qualities (2) e. g. a Jersey.'
Now there is no room for a further question " What do you want
, what you could do with ' for ? " That is to say, the premise
now given has characterised the thing wanted as desirable.
But is not anything wantable, or at least any perhaps attain­
able thing? It will be instructive to anyone who thinks this to
approach someone and say : ' I want a saucer of mud ' or ' I
want a twig of mountain ash '. He is likely to be asked what for;
t o which let him reply that he does not want i t for anything, he
just wants it. It is likely that the other will then perceive that a
philosophical example is all that is in question, and will pursue
the matter no further; but supposing that he did not realise this,
and yet did not dismiss our man as a dull babbling loon, would
INTENTION § 3 7 7 1
he not try to fnd out in what aspect the object desired is desirable ?
Does it serve as a symbol ? Is there something delightful about it j
Does the man want to have something to call his own, and no
more ? Now if the reply is : ' Philosophers have taught that
anything can be an object of desire ; so there can be no need for
me to characterise these objects as somehow desirable; it merely
so happens that I want them
" then this is fair nonsense.
But cannot a man tr to get anything gettable ? He can certainly
go after objects that he sees, fetch them, and keep them near­
him; perhaps he then vigorously protects them from removal.
But then, this is already beginnng to make sense : these are his
possessions, he wanted to own them; he may be idiotic, but his
, wanting ' is recognisable as such. So he can say perhaps ' I want
a saucer of mud '. Now saying ' I want ' is often a way to be
given something; so when out of the blue someone says ' I want a
pin ' and denies wanting itfor anything, let us suppose we give it
him and see what he does with it. He takes it, let us say, he
smiles and says ' Thank you. My want is gratifed '-but what
does he do with the pin? If he puts it down and forgets about it.
in what sense was it true to say that he wanted a pin? He used
these words, the efect of which was that he was given one; but
what reason have we to say he wanted a pin rather than : to see
if we would take the trouble to give him one ?
It is not a mere matter of what is usual in the way of wants
and what is not. It is not at all dear what it meant to say: this
man simply wanted a pin. Of course, if he is careful always to
carry the pin in hs hand thereafter, or at least for a tme, we may
perhaps say : it seems he really wanted that pin. Then perhaps, the
answer to ' What do you want it for ? ' may be ' to carry it
about with me ', as a man may want a stick. But here again
there is further characterisation: ' I don't feel comfortable
without it ; it is pleasant to have one ' and so on. To say ' I merel
want this ' without any characterisation is to deprive the word of
sense ; if he insists on ' having ' the thing, we want to know what
, having ' amounts to.
Then Aristotle's terms : ' should " ' suits ', ' pleasant ' are
characterisations of what they apply to as desirable. Such a
characterisation has the consequence that no further questions
' what for? ', relating to the characteristic so occurring in a premise,
require any answer. We have seen that at least sometimes a
description of an object wanted is subject to such a question, i.e.
such a question about the description does require an answer.
This, then will be why Aristotle's forms of the practical syllogism
give us such first premises.
Aristotle gives us a further practical syllogism when he
remarks ' a man may know that light meats are digestible and
wholesome but not know which meats are light ' .
1
Here the
description ' digestible and wholesome ' might seem not to be a
pure desirability-characterisation. But since wholesome means
good for the health, and health is by defnition the good general
state of the physical organism, the characterisation is adequate
for a proper frst premise and does not need to be eked out by,
say, , health is a human good ' (a tautology).
3 8. Let us now consider an actual case where a desirability
characterisation gives a fnal answer to the series of ' What for ? '
<uestions that arise about an action. In the present state of
philosophy, it seems necessary to choose an example which is
not obscured by the fact that moral approbation on the part of
the writer or reader is called into play; for such approbation is
in fact irrelevant to the logical features of practical reasoning;
but if it is evoked, it may seem to play a signifcant part. The
Nazis, being pretty well universally execrated, seem to provide us
with suitable material. Let us suppose some Nazis caught in a
trap in which they are sure to be killed. They have a compound
full of Jewish children near them. One of them selects a site and
starts setting up a mortar. Why this site ?-Any site with such­
and-such characteristics will do, and this has them. Why set up
the mortar ?-It is the best way of killing of the Jewish children.
Why kill of the Jewish children ?-It befts a Nazi, if he must
die, to spend his last hour exterminating Jews. (1 am a Nazi,
this is my last hour, here are some Jews.) Here we have arrived
at a desirability characterisation which makes an end of the
questions • What for ?'
Aristotle would seem to have held that every action done by
a rational agent was capable of having its grounds set fort up
to a premise contaiing a desirabilty characterisation; and as we
' Elhica Nicomachea,
1
1 41 b 1 8.
INTENTION § 3 8
H
have seen, there is a reasonable ground for this view, wherever
there is a calculation of means to ends, or of ways of doing what
one wants to do. Of course ' fun ' is a desirability characterisation
too, or ' pleasant ' : ' Such-and-such a kind of thing is pleasant •
is one of the possible frst premises. But cannot pleasure be taken
in atthing? It all seems to depend on how the agent feels about
i tl ' But can it be taken in anything? Imagine saying ' I want a
pin ' and when asked why, saying ' For fun ' ; or Because of t he
pleasure of it '. One would be asked to give an account making it
at least dimly plausible that there was a pleasure here. Hobbes1
believed, perhaps wrongly, that there could be no such thing as
pleasure in mere cruelty, simply in another's sufering; hut he
was not so wrong as we are likely to think. He was wrong in
suggesting that cruelty had to have an end, but it does have to
have a point. To depict this pleasure, people evoke notions of
power, or perhaps of getting one's own back on the world, or
perhaps of sexual excitement. No one needs to surround the
pleasures of food and drink with such explanations.
Aristotle's specifcations for the action of a rational agent do
not cover the case of ' I just did, for no particular reason '. But
where this answer is genuine, there is no calculation, and there­
fore no intermediate premises (like
'
Any site with such-and-such
characteristics will be a suitable one for setting up my mortar ' ,
and ' This is the best way to kill of the children ') about which to
press the question ' What for ? ' So we may note, as we have
done, that this sort of action ' for no particular reason ' exists.
and that here of course there is no desirability characterisation.
but that does not shew that the demand for a desirability charac­
terisation, wherever there is a purpose at all, is wrong.
With
'
It befts a Nazi, if he must die, to spend his last hour
exterminating Jews ' we have then reached a terminus in enquiring
into that particular order of reasons to which Aristotle gave the
name ' practical '. Or again: we have reached the prime starting
point and can look no further. (The question ' Why be a Nazi ? '
is not a continuation of this series ; it addresses itself to one of
the particular premises.) Any premise, if it really works as a
frst premise in a bit of ' practical reasoning ', contains a descrip­
tion of something wanted; but with the intermediary premises.
" Leviathan Par I, Chap. VI.
7
4
INTETION §
3
8-
3
9
the question ' What do you want that for ? ' arises-until at last
we reach the desirability characterisation, about which ' What do
you want that for ? ' does not arise, or if it is asked has not the
same point, as we saw in the ' suitable food ' example.
But in saying this, I do not at all mean to suggest that there
is no such thing as taking exception to, or arguing against, the
nrst premise, or its being made the frst premise. Nor am I
thinkng of moral dissent from i t; I prefer to leave that out of
account. But there are other ways of taking exception to, or
dissenting from, it. The nrst is to hold the premise false ; as a
dietician might hold false Aristotle's views on dry food. It does
indeed beft a Nazi to exterminate Jews, the objector may say,
but there is a Nazi sacrament of dying which is what really befts
a Nazi if he is going to die, and has time for it. Or again the
(bjector may deny that it befts a Nazi as such to exterminate
Jews at all. However, both these denials would be incorrect,
so we may pass quickly on to other forms of demurrer. All of
these admit the trth of the proposition, and all but one oppose
the desire of what it mentions, namely to do what befts a Nazi
in the hour of death. The one that does not oppose it says : ' Yes,
that befts a Nazi, but so equally does such-and-such: why not
do something fallng under tbis description instead, namely . . . '
Another says : ' To be sure, but at this moment I lose all interest
in doing what befts a Nazi '. And yet another says ' While that
does indeed beft a Nazi, it is not quite necessary for him to do it.
Nazism does not always require a man to strain to the utmost, it
is not as inhuman as that : no, it is quite compatible with being a
good Nazi to give yourself over to soft and tender thoughts of
your home, your family, and your friends, to sing our songs and
to drink the healths of those we love '. If any of these con­
siderations work on him, the particular practical syllogism of our
original Nazi fails, though not on account of any falsehood in the
premise, even according to him, nor on account of any fault in
his practical calculation.
39. A (formal) ethical argument against the Nazi might
perhaps oppose the notion of ' What a man ought to do '1 to
1
But is it not perfectly possible to say : 'At this moment Í lose al interest in
<oing what befts a man ' ? If Aristotle thought otherwise, he was surely wrong.
I suspect that he thought a man could not Jack this interest except under the infu­
<nee of inordinate passion or through ' boorishness ' (UYPOLKtfl), i.e. insen'sibility.
INTETION § 3 9
7
5
the Nazi's original premise ; setting up a position from which it
followed incidentally that it did not beft a man to be a Nazi
since a man ought not to do what befts a Nazi. Of course it is
merely academic to imagine this ; if the man with the moral
objection were clever he would adopt one of the three last men­
tioned. methods of opposing the hero, of which the frst one
would very likely be the best. But the following (vague) question
is often asked in one form or another: if desirabilty characterisa­
tions are required in the end for purposive action, then must not
the ones which relate to human good as such (in contrast with the
good of flm stars or shopkeepers) be in some obscure way
compulsive, if believed? So someone who gets these right must
be good; or at least (logically) must take a course within a certain
permitted range or be ashamed. Some such idea too lies at the
back of the notion that the practical syllogism is ethical.
' Evil be thou my good ' is often thought to be senseless
in some way. Now al that concers us here is that ' What's
the good of it ? ' is something that can be asked until a desirability
characterisation has been reached and made intelligible. If then
the answer to this question at some stage is ' The good of it is
tat it's bad " this need not be unintelligible; one can go on to
say 'And what is the good of its being bad? ' to which the answer
might be condemnation of good as impotent, slavish, and
inglorious. Then the good of making evil my good is my intact
liberty in the unsubmissiveness of my will. Bonum est multiplex:
good is multiform, and all that is required for our concept of
' wanting ' is that a man should see what he wants under the
aspect of some good. A collection of bits of bone three inches
long, if it is a man's object, is something we want to hear the
praise of before we can understand it as an object ; it would be
afectation to say , One can want anything and I happen to want
this " and in fact a collector does not talk like that ; no one talks
like that except in irritation and to make an end of tedious
questioning. But when a man aims at health or pleasure, then the
enquiry ' What's the good of it ? ' is not a sensible one. As for
reasons against a man's making one of them his principal
am; and whether there are orders of human goods, e. g. whether
some are greater than others, and whether if this is so a man
INTENTION § 39-40
need ever prefer the greater to the lessl, and on pain of what;
this question would belong to ethics, if there is such a science.
All that I am concerned to argue here is that the fact that some
desirability characterisation is required does not have the least
tendency to shew that at is endowed with some kind of necessity
in relation to wanting. But it may still be true that the man who
says ' Evil be thou my good ' in the way that we described is
committing errors of thought ; this question belongs to ethics.
4
0. The conceptual conexion between ' wanting ' (in the
sense which we have isolated, for of course we are not speaking
of the ' I want ' of a child who screams for something) and ' good'
can be compared to the conceptual connexion between ' j udg­
ment ' and ' truth '. Truth is the object of j udgment, and good
the object of wanting; it does not follow from this either that
everything j udged must be true, or that everything wanted must
be good. But there is a certain contrast between these pairs
of concepts too. For you cannot explain truth without intro­
ducing as its subject intellect, or judgment, or propositions, in
some relation of which to the things known or j udged truth
consists ; , truth ' is ascribed to what has the relation, not to the
things. With ' good ' and ' wanting ' it is the other way round;
as we have seen, an account of ' wanting ' introduces good as its
object, and goodness of one sort or another is ascribed primarily
to the objects, not to the wanting: one wants a good kette, but
has a tre iea of a kettle (as opposed to wanting a kettle well, or
having an idea of a true kettle). Goodness is ascribed to wanting
in virtue of the goodness (not the actualisation) of what is
wanted; whereas truth is ascribed immediately to j udgments, and
in virtue of what actually is the case. But again. the notion of
, good ' that has to be introduced in an account of wanting is not
that of what is really good but of what the agent conceives to be
good ; what the agent wants would have to be characterisable as
good by him, if we may suppose him not to be impeded by
inarticulateness. Whereas when we are explaining truth as a
predicate of j udgments, propositions, or thoughts, we have to
speak of a relation to what is really so, not j ust of what seems so
to the j udging mind. But on the other hand again. the good
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ptclctcuCc Cau Ìc 88 8uCh 'tcuuÍtcd Dy tca8OD ´, tu aDV 8cu8c.
INTENTION § 40
77
(perhaps falsely) conceived by the agent to characterise the thing
must reallY be one of the many forms of good.
We have long been familiar with the difculties surrounding
a philosophical elucidation of judgment, propositions, and truth;
but I believe that it has not been much noticed in modern philo­
sophy that comparable problems exist in connexion with want­
ing ' and C good '. In consequence there has been a great deal of
absurd philosophy hoth about tIlls concept and about matters
connected with it.
The cause of blindness to these problems seems to have
been the epistemology characteristic of Locke, and also of
Hume. Any sort of wanting would be an internal impression
according to those philosophers. The bad efects of their
epistemology come out most clearly if we consider the striking
fact that the concept of pleasure has hardly seemed a problematic
one at all to modern philosophers, until Ryle reintroduced it as
a topic a year or two ago. · The ancients seem to have been
bated by it; its difculty, astonishingly, reduced Aristotle to
babble, since for good reasons he both wanted pleasure to be
identical with and to be diferent from the activity that it is
pleasure in. It is customary nowadays to refute utilitarianism by
accusing it of the naturalistic fallacy ', an accusation whose force
I doubt. What ought to rule that philosophy out of consider­
ation at once is the fact that it always proceeds as if C pleasure '
were a quite unproblematic concept. No doubt it was possible
to have this assumption because the notion that pleasure was a
particular internal impression was uncritically inherited from the
British empiricists. But it shews surprising superfciality both
to accept that notion and to tret pleasure as quite gener­
ally the point of doing anything. We might adapt a remark
of Wittgenstein's about meaning and say ' Pleasure cannot be an
impression; for no impression could have the consequences of
pleasure '. They were saying that something which they thought
of as like a particular tickle or itch was quite obviously the
point of doing anything whatsoever.
In this enquiry I leave the concept C pleasure ' in its obscurity ;
it needs a whole enquiry to itself.2 Nor should an unexamined
" Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume XXVIII, 19H.
• Aristode's use of an artifcial concept of ' choice " where Î use ' intention "
in describing ' action', is linked with the difculty of this topic.
78
INTENTION § 40-41
thesis ' pleasure is good ' (whatever that may mean) be ascribed
to me. For my present purposes all that is required is that ' It's
pleasant ' is an adequate answer to ' What's the good of it ? ' or
, What do you want that for ?' I.e., the chain of ' Why's ' comes
to an end with this answer. The fact that a claim that ' it's pleasant '
can be challenged, or an explanation asked for ( But what is the
pleasure of it? ') is a diferent point, as also would be any con­
sideration, belonging properly to ethics, of its decency as an
answer.
41 . It will have become clear that the practical syllogism as
such is not an ethical topic. It will be of interest to an ethicist,
perhaps, if he takes the rather unconvincing line that a good man
is by defnition just one who aims wisely at good ends. I
call this unconvincing because human goodness suggests virtues
among other things, and one does not think of choosing means
to ends as obviously the whole of courage, temperance, honesty,
and so on. So what can the practical syllogism have to do
with ethics ? It can only come into ethical studies if a correct
philosophical psychology is requisite for a philosophical system
of ethics : a view which I believe I should maintain if I thought
of trying to construct such a system; but which I believe is not
generally current. I am not saying that there cannot be any such
thing as moral general premises, such as ' People have a duty of
paying their employees prompdy ', or Huckleberry Finn's
conviction, which he failed to make hs premise : ' White boys
ought to give runaway slaves up ' ; obviously there can, but it is
clear that such general premises will only occur as premises of
practical reasoning in people who want to do their duty.l The
point is very obvious, but has been obscured by the conception
of the practical syllogism as of its nature ethical, and thus as a
proof about what one ought to do, which somehow naturally
culminates in action.
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INTENTION § 41 -42
7
9
Of course ' I ought to do this, so I'll do it ' is not a piece of
practical reasoning any more than ' This is nice, so I'll have some '
is. The mark of practical reasoning is that the thing wanted is
at a distance from the immediate action, and the immediate action
is calculated as the way of getting or doing or securing the thing
wanted. Now it may be at a distance in various ways. For
example, ' resting ' is merely a wider description of what I am
perhaps doing in lying on my bed; and acts done to fulfl moral
laws wil generally be related to positive precepts in this way;
whereas getting in the good government is remote in time from
the act of pumping, and the replenishment of the house water­
supply, while very little distant in time, is at some spatial distance
from the act of pumping.
42. We have so far considered only a particular unit of
practical reasoning, to which the expression practical syllogism '
is usually restricted. But of course ' practical syllogisms i
Greek simply means practical reasonings, and these include
reasonings running from an objective through many steps to the
perforce of a particular action here and now. E.g. an Aris­
totelian doctor wants to reduce a swellng; this he says will be
done by producing a cra condition of the blood; this c be
produced by applying a certn kind of remedy; such-and-such
a medicine is that kind of remedy; here is some of that medcine­
give it.
It has an absurd appearance when practical reasonings, and
particularly when the particular units called practical syllogisms
by modern commentators, are set out in full. I several places
Aristotle discusses them only to poit out what a man may be
ignorant of, when he acts faultily though well-equipped with the
relevant general knowledge. It is not clear from his text whether
he tinks a premise must be before the mind (' contemplated )
in order to be ' used " nor is it of much interest to settle whether
he thinks so or not. Generally speaking, it would be very rare for
a person to go through althe steps of a piece of practical reason­
ing as set out in conformity with Aristotle's models, sayig e.g.
• I am human " and ' Lying on a bed is a good way of resting '.
This does occur sometimes, in cases like his ' dry toods ' example :
think of a pregnant woman decidng to eat some vitamous
80 INTENTION § 42-44
food. But if Aristotle's account were supposed to describe actual
mental processes, it would in general be quite absurd. The
interest of the account is that it describes an order which is there
whenever actions are done with intentions ; the same order as
I arrived at in discussing what ' the intentional action ' was,
when the man was pumping water. I did not realise the identity
until I had reached my results ; for the starting points for my
enquiry were diferent from Aristotle's, as is natural for someone
writig in a diferent time. In a way, my own construction is as
artifcial as Aristotle's ; for a series of questions ' Why? ' such as I
described, with the appropriate answers, cannot occur very often.
43 . Consider a question ' What is the stove doing? " with
the answer ' Burning well ' and a question ' What is Smith
doing? ' with the answer ' Resting '. Would not a paralel answer
about Smith really be ' breathing steadily ' or perhaps ' lying
extended on a bed ' ? Someone who was struck by this might
think it remarkable that te same expression ' What is-doing? •
should be understood in such df erent ways : here is a case of
the ' enormously complicated tacit conventions ' that accompany
our understandig of ordinary language, as Witgenstein said
i the Tractatl. And ' resting ' is pretty close to lying on a bed;
such a description as ' paying his gas bil " when al he is doing
is handng to bits of paper to a girl, might make a enquirer
say : ' Description of a human action is something enormously
complicated, if one were to say what is really involved in it-and
yet a child can give such a report I ' And similarly for ' preparing
a massacre ', whch would be a description of what our Nazi was
doing when he was dragging metal objects about or taking
ammuntion out of a drawer. Aristotle's ' practical reasoning ' or
my order of questions ' Why ?' can be looked at as a device
which reveals the order that there is in this chaos.
44. Let us now consider someone saying ' If I do this, this
will happen, if that, this other thing; so I'll do this '. There are
three cases to consider.
(a) The man has no end in view. E. g. let him be considering
two diferent foods ; one is rich in vitamins, the other rich in
protein ; both are therefore good (i.e. wholesome). But he has
INTENTION § 44 8 1
no practical premise : ' Vitaminous and protein-rich foods are
good for a man ' : he just eats what he wants to without consider­
ing such matters. Now someone says : ' If you have some of
this dish, you will get vitamins, if of that, you'll get protein ' and
he says : 'All right, I'll have some of the frst one '. Asked why
he chose that, he might say ' Oh, I thought I'd get some protein
in me '. Now this is not a case of ' practical reasoning '. If,
thinking ' if I do this, this will happen ' he decides to do it, and
so determines ' this ' as the result he wants, which before was
undetermined, and if
'
this ' is not wanted with a view to any further
end, he is not ' reasoning with a view to an end ' at all. He coul
simply not trouble to eat anything, or eat some hghly unsuitable
food instead, without abandonig any end. And the explanation
, Oh, I just tought I'd have something full of vitamins ' or ' Oh,
I thought I'd eat some thoroughly unsuitable food ' is an
extended form of what we are already acquainted with: ' I j ust
thought I would '.
(b) A man who has an end in view, e.g. to eat only wholesome
food, is always conronted with only one wholesome dish, and
recognzig it as a kind of food that is wholesome, he takes it
and not any other.
(c) The same man has a choice of diferent kinds of wholesome
dshes whenever he wats to eat, and chooses some of them, but
never takes others. Now 1hih he chooses is not determined by
hs end ; but he is not in the position of the frst man; although he
is now deterg whch he wants (protein or vitamin let us
say), which was not predetermined, still he must choose among
them or give up his objective of eating only wholesome food.
This trivial case (c) is an example of what is by far the most
common situation for anyone pursuing an obj ective. Let some­
one be building a house, for example; his plan may not determine
whether he has sash or casement windows ; but he must decide
which kind of window to have, at least when he comes to it, or
te house will not get fnished. And his calculation ' if I choose
this, this will be the result, if that, that; so I'll have this ' is calcu­
lation with a view to an end-namely, the completed house;
even though both alternatives would have ftted his plan. He is
choosing an alternative that fts, even though it is not the only
one that would.
8 2 INTENTION § 45
45 . We can now consider ' practical knowledge '. Imagine
someone directing a project, like the erection of a building which
he canot see and does not get reports on, purely by giving
orders. His imagination (evidently a superhuman one) takes
the place of the perception that would ordinarily be employed
by the director of such a project. He is not like a man merely
considering speculatively how a thing might be done; such a man
can leave many points unsettled, but this man m�st settle every­
thg in a right order. His knowledge of what is done is practical
knowledge.
But what is this ' knowledge of what is done ' ? First and
foremost, he can say what the house is like. But it may be
objected that he c only say ' This is what the house is like, if
my orders have been obeyed '. But isn't he then like someone
sayig • This-namely, what my imagination suggests-is what
is the cse i what I have imagined is true ' ?
I wrote • I am a fool ' on the blackboard with my eyes shut.
Now when I said what I wrote, ought I to have said: this is
what I am writing, i my intention is getting executed ; instead of
simply: ts is what I am writing?
Orders, however, can be disobeyed, and intentions fail to
get executed. That intention for example would not have been
executed i someting had gone wrong with the chalk or the
surace, so that the words did not appear. And my knowledge
would have been the same even if this had happened. If then my
knowledge is independent of what actually happens, how can it
be knowledge of what does happen? Someone might say tht
it was a funny sort of knowledge that was still knowledge even
though what it was knowledge of was not the case I On the other
hand Theophrastus' remark holds good: ' the mistake is in the
performance, not in the j udgment '.
Hence we can understand the temptation to make the real
object of willing just an idea, like William James. For that
certainly comes ito being; or if it does not, then there was no
willing and so no problem. But we can in fact produce a case
where someone efects something just by saying it is so, thus
fuflg the ideal for an act of will as perfectly as possible. This
happens if someone admires a possession of mine and I say ' It's
INTENTION § 46
yours l " thereby giving it him. But of course this is possible
only because property is conventional.
46. But who says that what is going on is the bUilding of a
house, or writg ' I am a fool ' on the blackboard? We all do, of
course, but why do we ? We notice many changes and movements
in the world without giving any comparable account of them.
The tree waves in the wind ; the movements of its leaves are
just as minute as the movement of my hand when I write on a
blackboard, but we have no description of a picked-out set of
movements or a picked-out appearance of the tree remotely
resembling , She wrote I am a fool " on the blackboard '.
Of course we have a special interest i human actions : but
what is it that we have a special interest in here ? It is not that
we have a special interest in the movement of these molecules­
namely, the ones in a human being; or even in the movements of
certain bodies-namely human ones. The description of what
we are interested in is a type of description that would not exist
if our question ' Why? ' did not. It is not that certain thigs,
namely the movements of humans, are for some undiscovered
reason subject to the question • Why? ' So too, it is not just that
certain appearances of chalk on blackboard are subject to the
question ' What does it say ? ' It is of a word or sentence that
we ask ' What does it say? ' ; and the description of something
as a word or a sentence at all could not occur prior to the fact
that words or sentences have meaning. So the description of
something as a human action could not occur prior to the
existence of the question ' Why ?
'
, simply as a kind of utterance by
which we were then obscurely prompted to address the question.
This was why I did not attempt in § I 9 to say wh certain things
should be subject to this question.
Why do we say that the movement of the pump handle
up and down is part of a process whereby those people cease
to move about ? It is part of a causal chain which ends with that
household's getting poisoned. But then so is some trn of a
wheel of a train by which one of the inhabitants travelled to the
house. Why has the movement of the pump handle a more
important position than a trn of that wheel ? It is because it
plays a part in the way a certain poisonous substance gets into
INTENTION § 46-47
human organisms, and that a poisonous substance gets into
human organisms is the form of description of what happens
which here interests us ; and only because it interests us would we
even consider refecting on the role of the wheel's turn in carrying
the man to his fate. After all, there must be an infnity of other
crossroads besides the death of these people. As Wittgenstein
says ' Concepts lead us to make investigations, are the expression
of our interest, and direct our interest' (Philosophical Investigations
§ 5 70).
So the description of something that goes on in the world
as ' buildng a house ' or ' writing a sentence on a blackboard '
is a description employing concepts of human action. Even if
writing appeared on a wall as at Belshazzar's feast, or a house
rose up not made by men, they would be identifed as writing
or a house because of their visible likeness to what we produce­
writing and houses.
47. Thus there are many descriptions of happenings which
are directly dependent on our possessing the form of description
of intentional actions. It is easy not to notice tis, because it is
perfectly possible for some of these descriptions to be of what is
done unintentionally. For example ' ofending someone ' ; one
can do this unintentionally, but there would be no such thing
if it were never the description of an intentional action. And
' putting up an advertisement upside down ', which would
perhaps mostly be unintentional, is a description referring to
advertisements, which are essentially intentional ; again, the kind
of action done in ' putting up' is intentional if not somnambulistic.
Or ' going into reverse', which can be intentional or unintentional,
is not a concept that would exist apart from the existence of
engines, the description of which brings in intentions. If one
simply attends to the fact that many actions can be either inten­
tional or unintentional, it can be quite natural to think that events
which are characterisable as intentional or unintentional are a
certain natural class,' intentional ' being an extra property
which a philosopher must try to describe.
In fact the term ' intentional ' has reference to a form of
description of events. What is essential to this form is displayed
by the results of our enquiries into the question • Why ? ' Events
INTENTION § 4
7
are typically described in this form when ' in order to ' or
, because ' (in one sense) is attached to their descriptions : ' I
slid on the ice because I felt cheerful '. ' Sliding on ice ' is not
itself a type of description, like ' ofending someone ', which is
directly dependent on our possessing ,the form of description of
intentional actions. Thus we c speak of the form of description
, intentional actions ', and of the descriptions which can occur in
this form, and note that of these some are and some are not
dependent on the existence of ths form for their own sense.
The class of such descriptions which are so dependent is a
very large, and the most important, section of those descriptions
of things efected by the movements of human beings which go
to make up the history of a human being's day or life. A short
list of examples of such descriptions should bring this out. I
assume a whole body as subject, and divide the list into two
columns ; the left hand one contains descriptions in which a
happening may be intentional or unntentional, the right hand
one tose which can only be voluntary or intentional (except
that the frst few members could be somnambulistic).
Intruding
Telephoning
Ofending
Calling
Coming to possess Groping
Kicking (and other descriptions Crouching
connoting characteÏistically Greeting
animal movement) Signing, signalling
Abandoning, leaving alone Paying, selling, buying
Dropping (transitive), Hiring, dismissing
holding, picking up Sending for
Switching (on, of) Marrying, contracting
Placing, arranging
The role of intention in the descriptions in the right hand
column will be obvious ; ' Crouching ' will probably be the
only one that occasions ay doubt. The left hand column will
strike anyone as a very mixed set. Both include things that can,
and things that cannot, be done by animals ; something involv­
ing encounters with artefacts, like switching on or of, can of
course be efected by an inanimate object ; but the description only
exists because we make switches to be switched on and of.
86 INTENTION § 47
With what right do I include other members in this list ?
They are all descriptions which go beyond physics : one might
call them vital descriptions. A dog's curled tail might have
something stuck in it, but that of itself would not make us speak
of the dog as holding the object with its tail ; but if he has taken
between his teeth and kept there some moderate-sized object,
he is holding it. To speak of the wind as picking things up and
putting tem down again is to animalize it in our language, and
so also if we speak of a cleft in rocks as holding something;
though not if we speak of something as held there by the cleft.
Trees, we may say, drop their leaves or their fruit (as cows
drop calves) ; this is because they are living organisms (we
should never speak of a tap as dropping its drips of water), but
means no more to us than that the leaves or fruit drop of them.
These descriptions are all basically at least animal. The charac­
teristically animal movements ' are movements with a normal
role in the sensitive, and therefore appetitive, lfe of animals.
The other descriptions suggest backgrounds in whch charcter­
istic things are done-.g. the reactions to an intruder.
Since I have defned intentional action in terms of laguage
-the special question Why ? '-it may seem surrising that I
should introduce intention-dependent concepts wit special
reference to their application to animals, which have no language.
Still, we certainly ascribe intention to anmals. The reason is
precisely that we describe what they do in a mn er perfectly
characteristic of the use of intention concepts : we describe what
further they are doing in doing something (the latter description
being mor immediate, nearer to the merely physical) : the cat is
stalking a bird in crouching and slinking along with its eye
fed on the bird and its whiskers twitching. The enlarged
description of what the cat is doing is not all that characterises
it as an intention (for enlarged descriptions are possible of any
event that has describable efects), but to this is added the eat's
perception of the bird, and what it does if it catches it. The
two features, knowledge and enlarged description, are quite
characteristic of description of intention in acting. Just as we
naturally say ' The cat thnks there is a mouse coming " so we
also naturally ask : Why is the cat crouching and slinking like
that ? and give the answer : It's stalking that bird; see, its eye is
fxed on it. We do this, though the cat can utter no thoughts,
and cannot give expression to any knowledge of its own action,
or to any intentions either.
48. We can now see that a great many of our descriptions of
events efected by human beings are formall descriptions of
executed intentions. That this is so for descriptions of the type
in the right hand column is evident enough. But this might be
explained by saying that intention is required (as an extra feature)
by the defnitions of the concepts employed. This, it might be
said, is no more than a quasi-legal point, or even an actual one
i the case of marriage, for example. But even here it might
strike someone as curious that in general special proof of intention
is not required; it is special proof of lack of it (because one of the
paries did not know te nature of the ceremony, for example)
that would invalidate a marriage.
Surprising as it may seem, te failure to execute intentions is
necessarily te rare excepton. This seems surprising becuse the
failure to achieve what or.e would fnally like to achieve is
common; and in paricular the attaiment of something falling
under te desirability characterisation i te frst premse. It
often happens for people to do thngs for pleasure and perhaps
get none or little, or for health without success, or for virue or
freedom with complete failure ; and these failures interest us.
What is necessarily the rare exception is for a man's perormance
in its more immediate descriptions not to be what he supposes.
Further, it is the agent's knowledge of what he is doing that gives
te descriptions under which what is going on is the execution of
an intention.
If we put these considerations together, we c say that
where (a) the description of an event is of a type to be formally
te description of an executed intention (b) the event is actually
the execution of an intention (by our criteria) then the account
given by Aquinasl of the nature of practical knowledge holds :
Practical knowledge is ' the cause of what it understands ', unlike
speculative ' knowledge, which is derived from the objects
known '. This means more than that practical knowledge is
observed to be a necessary condition of the production of various
ª Summa Theologica, Ia IIae, Q�, ar. S, obj. 1 .
88 INTENTION §
4
8
results ; or that an idea of doing such-and-such in such-and-such
ways is such a condition. It means that without it what happens
does not come under the description-execution of intentions­
whose characteristics we have been investigating. This can seem
a mere exIra feature of events whose description would otherwise
be the same, only if we concentrate on small sections of action
and slips which can occur in them.
' Practical knowledge ' is of course a common term of
ordinary language, no doubt by inheritance from the Aristote­
lian philosophy. For that philosophy has conferred more terms
on ordinary language than any other, in senses more, or less,
approximating to those of Aristotle himself: ' matter ', ' sub­
stance ', ' principle ', ' essence ' come readily to mnd; and
' practical knowledge ' is one of them. A man has practical
knowledge who knows how to do things ; but that is an insuf­
cient descripton, for he might be said to know how to do things
if he could give a lecture on it, though he was helpless when
confronted with the task of doing them. Wen we ordinarily
speak of practkal knowledge we have in mind a certain sort
of general capacity in a particular feld; but if we hear of a
capacity, it is reasonable to ask what constitutes an exercise of it.
E.g., if my knowledge of the alphabet by rote is a capacity, this
capacity is exercised when I repeat these noises, starting at
any letter. I the case of practical knowledge the exercise of the
capacity is nothing but the doig or supervising of the operations
of which a man has practical knowledge; but this not just the
coming about of certain efects, like my recitation of the alphabet
or of bits of it, for what he efects is formally characterised as
subject to our question ' Why ? ' whose application displays the
A-D order which we discovered.
Naturally my imaginary case, in which a man directs opera­
tions which he does not see and of which he gets no information,
is a very improbable one. Normally someone doing or directing
anything makes use of his senses, or of reports given him, the
whole time : he will not go on to the next order, for example,
until he knows that the preceding one has been executed, or,
if he is the operator, his senses inform him of what is going on.
This knowledge is of course always ' speculative ' as opposed to
, practical '. Thus in any operation we really can speak of two
INTENTION § 48-49
knowledges-the account that one could give of what one was
doing, without adverting to observation; and the account of
exactly what is happening at a given moment (say) to the material
one is working on. The one is practical, the other speculative.
Although the term ' practical knowledge ' is most often used
in connexion with specialised skills, there is no reason to think
that this notion has application only in such contexts. ' Inten­
tional action ' always presupposes what might be called ' know­
ing one's way about ' the matters described in the description
under which an action can be called intentional, and this know­
ledge is exercised in the action and is practical knowledge.
49. The distinction between the voluntary and the inten­
tional seems to be as follows : (I ) Mere physical movements, to
whose description our question ' Why? ' is applicable, are
called voluntary rather than intentional when (a) the answer is
e.g. ' I was fddling ', ' it was a casual movement ', or even ' I don't
know why ' (b) the movements are not considered by the agen
t,
though he can say what they are if he does consider them. It
might seem that this is a process of empirical discovery; for
example, a man who wanted to say what movements he made in
detail might go through the motions in order to fnd out. Isn't
the knowledge so gained observational ? That it is not cn be
seen if we remember that he does not necessarily have e.g. to
look at hs hands in order to say; and it is even possible to make
tis discovery by going through the motions (e.g. of tying a
knot) in imagination, but imagination could never have authority
to tell us what would be the obsered result of an experiment. (z)
Something is voluntary though not intentional if it is the ante­
cedently known concomitant result of one's intentional action, so
that one could have prevented it i one would have given up
the action; but it is not intentional : one rejects the questio
n
'
Why? ' in its connexion. From another point of view, however,
such things can be called involuntary, if one regrets them very
much, but feels compelled ' to persist in the intentional actions
i n spite of that.
(
3
)
Things may be voluntary which are not one's
own doing at all, but which happen to one's delight, so that one
consents and does not protest or take steps against them: as
when someone on the bank pushes a punt out into the river so
90 INTENTION § 49
-' I
that one is carried out, and one is pleased.-' Why ' it might
be asked, , did you go sliding down the hill into that party of
people ? ' to which the answer might be ' I was pushed so that I
went sliding down the bank '. But a rejoinder might be ' You
didn't mind; you didn't shout, or try to roll aside, did you? '
(4) Every intentional action is also voluntary, though again,
as at (2), intentional actions can also be described as involuntary
from another point of view, as when one regrets. ' having ' to
do them. But ' reluctant ' would be the more commonly used
word.
,0. I have completed the enquiry into intentional action
and intention with which an action is done, and will now return
to the topic I left at §4: expression of intention for the future.
What I have said about intention in acting applies also to intention
in a proposed action. And, indeed, quite generally, the applic­
ability of the question ' Why ? ' to a prediction is what marks it
out as an expression of intention rather than an estimate of the
future or a pure prophecy. But what distinguishes it from a
hope ? A hope is possible even concerning one's own future
intentional actions : ' I shall be polite to him-I hope '. Grounds
of hope are mixed of reasons for wanting, and reasons for
believing that the thing wanted may happen; but grounds of
intention are only reasons for acting.
, I . A possible answer to the question ' Why ? ' about an
expression of intention regarding a future action is ' I just want
to, that's all '. This form of words is of course possible in relation
to a present action too. But its signifcance appears to change
according as it is said of a present, or of a future, action. Said
of a present action, it suggests an objection to being troubled
with questions : this is just what I am doing, and I am not inter­
ested in having it queried. But this does not mean that the
question ' Well, at least what's pleasant or interesting about it ? '
is shewn to have no application. What is the man at in doing the
thing that he ' just wants to ' ? Whiling away the time ? Seeing
if he can fnish some futile thing which for a moment's idle
occupation he has started-as one might persist in seeing if one
could fnd all the letters of the alphabet on a small bit of news-
INTENTION § 5 I -5 1
paper ? C I want to ' is not an explanation of something that a
man is doing.
It is diferent with a proposed action. My remarks about
wanting ' an object or a state of afairs at §
3
7 do not necessarily
apply to wanting to do something. Say I notice a spot on the
wall-paper and get out of my chair. Asked what I am doing I
reply C I'm going to see if I can reach it by standing on my toes '.
Asked why, I reply C I want to, that's all ' or • I just had the idea '.
Here I may be excluding the idea that there is any further point,
any room for more answers from me; and no one can say: But
there is a place for an answer of a certain type, which place
requires to be flled. But if I stay there with my fnger on the
spot, or keep on reaching up to it, and when asked why, I say
• I want to, that's all " there does seem to be a gap demanding to
be flled. What am I doing? Am I e.g. seeing how long I can
keep it up? It is not just a matter of eccentricity. The question is,
what information • I want to do it, that's all • gives you, apart
from the fact that I am doing it : what it tells you that C No
particular reason ' would not tell you. For it is certainly not a
report that a feeling of desire is animating me in connexion with
what I am doing.
But if an idea of something I might do inspires me to set
out to do it, or to make up my mind to do it, not with any end in
view, and not as anything but itself, this is • just wanting ' to do
it; and to say I just want to, that's all ' is to explain that that is
the situation.
I wanted to, that's all ' might tell us that had had been the
situation when I did something. And one can say • I wanted to •
of a present action.
We could imagine a special mood of verbs (compare the
• optative ' mood in Greek) in whch the future tense was used
purely to express intention of doing something just because one
wants to, and a C past future ', as it were, in the same mood used
in place of ' I wanted to '. But there would be no present of this
mood, if this were its function.
This C I want, that's all ' applies only to doing.
5 2. Let us consider C I am going to do it ' said as an expres­
sion of intention, and • I am not going to do it ' as a belief on
INTENTION § 5
evidence-when the ' it ' is one and the same.
, I am going for a walk-but shall not go for a walk ' is a
contradiction of a sort, even though the frst part of the sentence
is an expression of intention, and the second an estimate of what
is going to happen. Suppose there are no difculties about the
man's going for a walk ? How can he say both t
h
ings, and claim
that there is no contradiction because one part is just an expression
of intention and the otIltr j udgment on what will actually happen?
The contradiction consists in the fact that if the man does go
for a walk, the frst prediction is verifed and the second falsifed,
and vice versa if he does not go. And yet we feel that this is not,
so to speak, a head-on contradiction, like that of pairs of con­
tradictory orders, contradictory hypotheses, or opposed
intentions.
If I say I am going for a walk, someone else may know that
t
h
is is not going to happen. It would be absurd to say that
what he knew was not going to happen was not t
h
e very same
t
h
ing that I was saying was going to happen.
Nor can we say: But in an expression of intention one isn't
saying anything is going to happen! Ot
h
erwise, when I
h
ad said
' I'm just going to get up ', it would be unreasonable later to
ask ' Why didn't you get up ? ' I could reply:
'
I wasn't talking
about a future happening, so why do you mention such irre­
levancies ? '
Ought one really always to say ' I am going to . . . unless
I am prevented ' ? or at least to say that there is an implicit
, unless I am prevented ' (an implicit deo volente) in every expres­
sion of intention? But ' unless I am prevented ' does not normal
l
y
mean ' uniess I do not do it '. Suppose someone said
'
I am going
to . . . unless I am prevented, or I change my mind ' ?
In the small activities of everyday life, to say ' I am going to,
unless I am prevented ' would be absurd, like putting ' unless
my memory deceives me ' after every report one gave of what
h
ad
h
appened. And yet t
h
ere are cases in w
h
ich one's memory
deceives one. One may therefore think: in those cases it would
have been more correct for one to add ' unless my memory
deceives me ' to the report. But there is no way of choosing
the right cases ; for one would actually choose them when for
particular reasons there was some doubt about the report; well,
INTENTION § 5 2 93
we can suppose that a man never makes a confdent report
when he has any special reason to doubt, but t
h
is man w
i
ll
probably still sometimes be wrong in what he con
f
dently reports.
We know this because we all are sometimes wrong. But this
general ground could only lead one to add ' unless my memory
deceives me ' to every report. It would then be no more than an
acknowledgement that ' in every case, one could be wrong '­
which does not mean ' one could be wrong in every case '. \Vhen
one considers a particular case-e.g. I met so-and-so yesterday '
-one is inclned to say ' I couldn't be wrong '. But even if one
made a habit of asking • Can I say ' I couldn't be wrong ' in that
way? ' before venturing on a report, one would probably have
to concede later that sometimes one had been wrong; at least one
could not say that this possibility is ruled out for anyone who
adopts this habit, for people sometimes are wrong about what
t
h
ey are quite certain of. So that all one is really saying is : in this
case I am not wrong-i.e. : it happened. And one is sometimes
wrong, but mostly right.
Similarly, when one says ' I am going to ' one may always
be prevented but need not consider that ; mostly, one is not
prevented. And it would be useless to try to attach ' unless
I am prevented ' to the right cases, in w
h
ic
h
one actually is
prevented but there was no reason to expect it. In saying ' I am
going to ', one really is saying that such-and-such is going to
happen . . . which may not be true.
But if one is considering the fact that one may not do what
one is determined to do, then the right thing to say really is ' I
am going to do this . . . unless I do not do it '. Even ' I am going
(or not going
)
to do this, unless I am prevented, or change my
mind ' is not adequate, as can be seen from the case of St. Peter,
who did not change
h
is mind about denying Christ, and was not
prevented from carrying out his resolution not to, and yet did
deny him.
, I am going to . . . unless I do not ' is not like ' This is the
case, unless it isn't'. It has an analogue in estimates of the future :
, This is going to happen . . . unless it doesn't '. (Someone may
prevent it.) T
h
is could be said even of an eclipse of the sun;
because the verifcation of predictions awaits the event-and
the sun might blow up before the eclipse.
9
4 INTENTION § S Â
It is for this reason that in some cases one can be as certain as
possible that one will do something, and yet intend not to do it.
So a man hanging by his fngers from a precipice may be as
certain as possible that he must let go and fall, and yet determined
not to let go. Here, however, we might say: ' In the end hs
fngers let go, not he '. But a man could be as certain as possible
that he will break down under torture, and yet determined not to
break down. And St. Peter might perhaps have. calculated ' Since
he says it, it is true' ; and yet said ' I will not do it '. The possibilty
in this case arises from ignorance as to the way in which the
prophecy would be fulfld; thus St. Peter could do what he
itended not to, without changing his mind, and yet do it inten­
tionally.

Copyright © 1957. 1963 by G. E. M. Anscombe All rights reserved Primed in the United States of America Originally published in England in 1957 by Basil Blackwell. First Harvard University Press paperback edition.
2000

Cataloging-in-l'lIblicJtion Oara is available (rom rhe Library of Congress.
ISBN

0-674-00399- 3

CONTENTS
I.

§

page The subject introduced under three heads: expression of intention for the future, intentional action, and intention in acting.
I

z.

Intuitive understanding of the difference between , prediction' and 'expression of intention ' rejected as a foundation for a philosophical account of expres­ sions of intention. Prediction defined so as to com­ prise orders and expressions of intention as well as estimates of the future. The falsity of expressions of intention in the simple future tense (a) as lying and (b) as falsity because the intention is not carried out.
I

3.

Usefulness of considering the verbal expression of intention for the future in order to avoid various dead ends. Uselessness of an introspective explanation of intention. Expressions of intentions distinguished from estimates of the future by the justification, if any. given for them.

J

4.

Are there any statements of the form 'A intends X • which can be made with fair certainty? Descriptions of a man's actions often descriptions truly substitutable for'X ' in 'A intends X ' Reasons why we suppose a man the sole authority on his own intentions.
.

7

5.

Intentional actions defined as those to whi9J a certain sense of the question 'Why?' is given application. Difficulty of defining the relevant sense and danger of moving in a circle in our explanations of 'reason for acting' and 'action'. 'I knocked the cup off the table because I was startled ' gives an answer to a question , Why ? ' about something done.

9

6.

The question 'Why ?' is refused application by the answer 'I did not know I was doing that'. The same action can have many descriptions, in some of which the agent knows it and in some not.

JJ

but where there is no room for non-observational knowledge of causality: e. . as when I say whyI gave a start.g. even though these may be expressed in the form' I wanted . but it is important to make these distinctions. does not therefore necessarily give a reason for acting. the knowledge one has of some of one's own move­ ments.g. the muscular spasm one sometimes has in dropping off to sleep. Popularly motive and intention are not so distinct. 13 9. as the class of movements known without observation. There is also non-observational knowledge of the causation of a movement.IV INTENTION page The question also refused application when the action was involuntary. In one sense of' Why? ' the answer mentions evidence. IZ 8. and described as causes. Among motives that are not intentions for the future we can distinguish between backward-looking motives like revenge (I killed him because he killed my brother) I8 13. § 7. but 'motive' is a wider notion than' intention '. And also from intentions with which a person acts. Motives have been sharply distinguished from inten­ tions by philosophers. Difficulties of the notion ' involuntary'. A motive is not a cause at all. Mental causes should be distinguished from motives of actions and objects of feelings. 'Non-observational knowledge ' introduced as e. . but this notion cannot be introduced without treating as solved the very kind of problem we are discussing. which does not mention evidence. 16 1 I. We can define one class of involuntary move­ ments without begging any questions. ' Mental causality is not important in itself. I5 roo This kind of causation labelled ' mental causality'. but an answer to a question' Why?' about an action. . The cases where it was difficult to distinguish a cause from a reason turn out to be ones where there is non-observational knowledge of the causation. 17 12.

which range we use to define the class of intentional actions. 1 �. What distinguishes backward-looking motives from mental causes? The notions of good and harm are involved in them.g. we mean that we cannot understand the man who says it. The fact that'For no particular reason' is a possible ' answer to the question'Why? about an action does not shew that this answer always makes sense. The question • 20 1 4. latter answer. rather than that 'a form of words is excluded from the language '. 30 . 21 In some cases the distinction between a mental cause and a reason is not sharp-E. Why?' is not refused application Consideration of the 2� when the answer is e. Proof of this by supposing there is such a feature. The question 'Why?' identified as one expecting an answer in the range we have described. or further intention with which one acts. 26 1 9.'For no particular reason' or 'I don't know why I did it '. 23 Summary of results reached so far. Motive-in-general can also be called ' interpretative' motive. There would be no such thing as our question ' Why? ' or intentional action if the only answer were: 'For no particular reason ' .g. 18. z 8 20. 16. ' I put it down because he told me to ' . Discussion whether intentional actions could still have the characteristic of being intentional although there were no such thing as expression of intention for the future. But when we speak of it as not making sense. We do not mention any extra feature attaching to an action at the time it is done by calling it intentional. � 7.CONTENTS V § page and motive-in-general (He did it out of friendship).

when does he do this ? How is moving his arm up and down an act of poisoning the inhabitants? Supposiflg the man to know the water will poison the inhabitants. I was only doing my job of pumping " this answ� does not fall within the range of answers to ' Why ? ' by which we have defined intentional action. he must treat an acknowledgement of ' But if P. are descriptions of inten­ tional actions. Can one determine one's intentions just by what one says they are ? The interest of a man's intentions.vi § 2 I. Any true descriptions of what he is doing which satisfy our criteria. Is there any description which is 34 the description of an intentional action when intentional action occurs ? An example is invented in which to examine the question : a man who moves his arm in pumping water to replen­ ish a house water-supply to poison the inhabitants and is also doing other things with the pump handle at the same time. Are there as many actions and as many intentions as there are such descriptions ? 24. Still. but to say ' I didn't care about that. 41 4� . In order for it to be possible to say that an agent does P in order that Q. the order of descriptions of an action as intentional.e. 26. apart from what he actually did. INTENTION page Criticism of the Aristotelian proof of a final end for a man's actions. with which. 37 4I 2 �. The A-D order: i. we can now see that some chains of reasons for acting must occur if there is such a thing as intentional action at all. when this men­ tions something future. such that each term of the series can be said to be an intention in the action as described by the previous term. Q won't happen' as incompatible with his having that intention in acting. Answer to the questions of §z3. 23. If ' he is poisoning the inhabitants' is one of these descriptions. Difficulties. and the last term an intention of the action as described by the first or any intermediate term. Discussion of intention 33 22.

Example of man with a shopping list: the relation of this list to what he buys. Inadequacy of this solution. n 34· Practical syllogisms are not confined to ones that look parallel to proof syllogisms. It is a different kind of reasoning from that of the proof syllogism. 53 3 1. i. or act of will. The starting point for a piece of practical reasoning is something wanted. But must there not be two objects of knowledge-what I am 'doing'. which really determines what is or is not going on under the title ' such-and-such a kind of action ' ? Further enquiry into non-observational knowledge. 49 29· 51 3 0. which can only be given by observation? Philosophical views on will and intention which have arisen from this problem. and what is actually taking place. and of what he buys to a list made by a detective following him. and the first premise mentions something wanted.e. Attempt at solution by comparing the facts which may falsify a statement of intentional action to the facts which may make an order fall to the ground. The character of a discrepancy between the list and what is bought in the two cases. 54 32• 56 33· This notion can only be understood by first understanding what Aristotle called 'practical reasoning'. but this has been misunderstood in modern times. 62 . back to something initiating the movements that then take place. my intention.CONTENTS vii page 27· § Is there ever any place for an interior act of intention. The practical syllogism is not a form of demonstration of what I ought to do. An example to prove that it is wrong to try and push the real intention. Is there such a thing as 'practical knowledge' in the sense of ancient and medieval philosophy? 47 28. Knowledge of one's own intentional actions-I can say what I am doing without looking to see.

72- 39. The fact that a desirability-characterisation is required does not shew that any is compulsive in relation to wanting. The'absurdity' of setting practical reasonings out in full. until he gives a desirability-characterisation. 63 67 37. The point is to describe not what (psychologically) goes on. The question 'What for?' cannot significantly be asked in a continuation of the series of such questions. and generally of wanting what the agent does not even suppose to exist yet. 36. 70 38. but the first premise must mention something wanted. 4 2. but an order. In the relevant sense of'wanting' . The point illustrated by an example: ' It befits a Nazi to spend his last hour exterminating Jews'. Occurrence of evaluative terms in the first premise of practical syllogisms given by Aristotle. 74 40. the same order as I described in discussing what'the intentional action' was. 79 . Problem of wanting a wife. The mark of practical reasoning is that the thing wanted is at a distance from the particular action. This does not mean that the practical reasoning cannot be assailed so long as it is not fallacious. 76 78 41. Not every statement of a reason for acting shews practical reasoning.viii INTENTION page § 3 5 . Volition and sense-knowledge cannot be described independently of one another. ing to'good' with that of the relation of ' judging' to'true'. or in what aspect it is desirable. he can always be asked what for. X ' in 'A wants X' does not range over all describable objects or states of affairs. Comparison of the problem of the relation of ' want­ . Bonum est multiplex. once a desirability-characterisation has been reached. 'I want' does not rightly occur in the premises. If a man wants something.

Consideration of • I just want to. that' followed by action: cases in which this is. Consideration of • If I do this. voluntary' action. Return to expression of intention for the future. 9° 9° p. that's all' in regard to an expression of intention for the future. Cases where they might occur together. 83 84 47· 48. A prediction is an expression of intention when our question' Why?' applies to it. if that. form of description Many descriptions of events effected by humans are formally descriptions of executed intentions. and 'I am going to-' as an expression of belief. Intention in animals. Practical knowledge considered as the knowledge of what is done in the man who directs a project without seeing it. 91 . ' I am not going to-' as an expression of intention. this will happen. Problem: how is this knowledge. and in which it is not • practical reasoning '. Elucidation of the notion of practical knowledge. if his orders do not get carried out? The description of something as e. 1 z.g. What has been said about intention in present action also applies to future intention. 80 44· 80 45· 8z 46.CONTENTS ix page § 4 3· Contrast between' the stove is burning' and ' the man is paying his gas bill': enormous apparent complexity of ' doing' in the latter case. Account of • 87 89 4 9· 50. building a house or writing on the blackboard employs the concept of human action. which we have seen to be defined by means of our question ' Why? ' The term ' intentional' relates to a of events.

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This book assembles the results. of research begun during my tenure of the Mary Somerville Research Fellowship at Somerville College. 29.INTRODUCTION The greater part of what appears here was delivered as a course of lectures at Oxford in the Hilary Term of 195 7. with small modifications. I am indebted to the Society for permission for a substantial reprint of that matter. I wish therefore to express my gratitude to the Donors. 6. 59 and 61. 58. to which an acknowledgment is therefore also due. so far as concerns this particular topic. 1 7. comprising the discussion of the differ­ ence between' motive'. the only ones of any signifi­ cance are on pp. Excerpts. ' intention' and' mental cause' formed an Aristotelian Society paper delivered on June 3rd. 33 and 34· . Note on the Second Impression I have made a few alterations. 195 7. Note on Second Edition For this edition I have made some small alterations in §§ 2. More recently I have been supported by the Rockefeller Founda­ tion.

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and took only one of these three kinds of statement as containing our whole topic. for an action can be intentional without having any intention in it. in the following sense: if . we might very likely say things about what 'intention' means which it would be false to say in one of the other cases. The distinction between an expression of intention and a prediction is generally appealed to as something intuitively clear. we may infer that we are in fact pretty much in the dark about the character of the concept which it represents. what he intends to do-and of his intention in doing or proposing something-what he aims at in it. We also sometimes speak of an action as intentional. And we may be inclined to say that • intention' has a different sense when we speak of a man's intentions simpliciter­ i. nothing wrong with taking a topic piecemeal. But in fact it is implausible to say that the word is equivocal as it occurs in these different cases.INTENTION I. • I am going to be sick • is usually a prediction. For example. Or alternatively we may be tempted to think that only actions done with certain further intentions ought to be called inten­ tional. The dis­ tinction intended is intuitively clear. But an action can be intentional without being concerned with the future in any way. There is. we might say'Intention always concerns the future'.e. I shall therefore begin my enquiry by considering expressions of intention. when a man says' I am going to do such­ and-such " we should say that this was an expression of intention. In each case we employ a concept of'intention'. 2. and we may also ask with what intention the thing was done. Very often. • I am going to take a walk' usually an expression of intention. however. Where we are tempted to speak of • different senses' of a word which is clearly not equivocal. Realising this might lead uS to say that there are various senses of • inten­ tion " and perhaps that it is thoroughly misleading that the word • intentional' should be connected with the word • intention'. now if we set out to describe this concept.

g. among predictions. ' and someone says' Surely you aren't as bad at the subject as that'. commands and expressions of intention will also be predictions. Presumably what these are has yet to be discovered. I say'I am going to fail in this exam. For we are really asking what each of these is. distinguish between commands. 'I am going to be sick ' as it would most usually be said. expressions of intention. we ask in philosophy what the difference is between e. in the way that it is a fact of racial psychology. only with a changed inflection of the verb. This suggests that an expression of intention is not. Let us then try to give some account of prediction. pure prophecies. If. Suppose it is said 'A prediction is a statement about the future'. can be called true (or false) in face of what has happened later. that those states of mind which are intentions always have to do with the future. The following seems promising: a man says something with one inflection of the verb in his sentence. No one is likely to believe that it is an accident. Now by this criterion. not giving an estimate of my chances. I may make my meaning clear by explaining that I was expressing an intention. it is not illuminating to be told that one is a prediction and the other the expression of an intention. a mere fact of psychology.2. It is perhaps the description-or expression-of a present state of mind. and then. as one might say. that most of the earliest historical traditions concern heroic figures. later that same thing. estimates. Adopting a hint from Wittgenstein (Philosophical Investigations §§ 62. In view of the difficulties described above. But . INTENTION § 2. The 'intuitively clear' distinction we spoke of turns out to be a distinction between expressions of intention and estimates.9-30) we might then first define prediction in general in some such fashion. as the intention seems to be. this may not constitute an objection. But then it becomes difficult to see why they should be essentially connected with the future. however. a state which has the properties that characterise it as an intention. you can be asked what serves to distinguish this concern with the future from the predictive concern. And if you try to make being concerned with the fut ure into a defining property of intentions. and 'I am going to take a walk " as it would most usually be said. etc.

as no one knows what a good foundation is for an unscientific estimate-e. Orders are usually criticised for being sound or unsound rather than for being fulfilled or not fulfilled. rather than that it is the purpose of the speaker. What are the reasons other than a dispensable usage for not calling commands true and false according as they are obeyed or disobeyed? An order will usually be given with some intention or other. without detriment to its being an order. but is not as such the expression of a volition.g. but this does not serve to distinguish orders from estimates of the future. E. An imperative will be a description of some future action. where these are scientific. I say that this is its point in the language. as well as being information to the patient. (Unscientific estimates are of course praised for being fulfilled rather than for being well-founded. partly because the speaker might of course give an order with some purpose quite other than that it should be executed (e. so that it should not be executed). informatory) character is not the distinctive mark of ' predictions' as opposed to' expressions of intention " as we might at first sight have been tempted to think.g. addressed to the prospective agent. he would say that the doctor told him. and cast in a form whose point in the language is to make the person do what is described. when a doctor says to a patient in the presence of a nurse' Nurse will take you to the operating theatre " this may function both as an expression of his intention (if it is in it that his decision as to what shall happen gets expressed) and as an order. this form is sometimes a special inflection and sometimes a future tense which has other uses as well. nor yet a guess or prophecy. This example shews that the indicative (descriptive. and it is this latter in spite of being in no sense an estimate of the future founded on evidence.) But there is a difference between the types of . a political one. a single utterance may function as more than one of these kinds of prediction. it is simply a description of an action cast in a special form.g. since the same may hold for estimates of the future.INTENTION § 2. Execution-conditions for commands correspond to truth·· conditions for propositions. nor does the patient normally infer the information from the fact that the doctor said that.

The answer to this is that a lie is an utterance contrary to one's mind. so it seems that the truth of a statement of intention is not a matter of my doing what I said. And then. is possible here. and indeed. predictions.g. In the case of inten­ tions. . ones suggesting what it would be good to make happen with a view to an objective. or with a view to a sound objective. as when one lies in response to the query 'A penny for your thoughts '. and to calling expressions of intention. and an estimate of the future.4 INTENTION § Z ground on which we call an order. and just because of this is more easily disposed of. or even necessarily to have lied. In the case of commands. since a common form of expression of intention is a simple future tense. what I say is a lie because of something present. commands and expressions of intention are similar. But why should we not say: this only shows that there are other ways of saying what is not true. superficial grammar would rather incline us to accept the diagnosis. and one's mind may be either an opinion. the reason lies in the superficial grammar. or a mind to make something the case. One might not have a ' mind ' to do something. The reasons justifying an order are not ones suggesting what is probable. But our objections are deeper rooted. I am not supposed to have made a mistake. But the reason why Quine's remark is a joke is that this falsehood does not neces­ sarily impugn what I said. In some cases the facts are. impugned for not being in accordance with the words. one might do the thing 'to make an honest proposition ' of what one had said. so to speak.. what I said was not true (though there might not be a question of my truth fulness in saying it). this use of the future tense must play a dominant part in any child's learning of it. however. and if I lie. besides lying and being mistaken? A lie. In this regard. as Quine once put it (at a philosophical meeting). not future. but e. It is natural to feel an objection both to calling commands. or likely to happen. If I do not do what I said I would. though I afterwards did it. sound. I might even be lying in saying I was going to do something. That a lie is an utterance contrary to one's mind does not mean that it is -a false report of the contents of one's mind. For if I don't do what I said. distinguish­ able from uttering the words.

For a eat's movements in stalking a bird are hardly to be called an expression of intention. We need a more fruitful line of enquiry than that of considering the verbal expression of intention. we ought to consider something internal. i. what it is an expression of. but which brutes (which e. the mistake here is one of performance. e. This is another reason for the very natural idea f that in order to understand the expression of intention. Intention appears to be something that we can express. and even though' I intend to go for a walk but shall not go for a walk' does sound in some way contradictory. For if we consider just the verbal expression of intention.INTENTION § 2. but of the expression o intention.g.e. There are other cases too: for example. This consideration disinclines us to call it a prediction-Leo a description of something future. we arrive only at its being a­ queer-species of prediction. hence we speak of com. St.l 1I89b u ). A command is essentially a sign (or symbol). " 3. Even though that is just what .g. I write something other than I think I am writing: as Theophrastus says (Magna Moralia. and if we try to look for what it is an expression of. whereas an intention can exist without a symbol. or of trying to consider what it is an expression of. though lacking any distinct expression of intention. that the expression of it is purely conventional. we might say' linguis­ tic if we will allow certain bodily movements w��h a conven­ tional meaning to be included in language. we are likely to find ourselves in one or other of several dead ends. not of judgment. Wittgenstein seems to me to have gone wrong in speaking of the' natural expression of an intention' (Philosophical InvestigatiOlls § 647). Peter did not change his mind about denying Christ. do not give orders) can have.-3 rather than vice versa. One might as well call a car's stalling the expression of its being about to stop. mands.g. Intention is unlike emotion in this respect. . but another case of it occurs when e. and yet it would not be correct to say he made a lying promise of faithfulness.: psychological jargon about' drives' and I Assuming that we are correctly told that Theophrastus was the author. not of the expression of commanding. I'll do such-and-such' actually looks like. This is sometimes so when I change my mind.

not by evidence that it is true.. an intention of going for a walk. But it might be replied: what do you mean by an ' unnecessary' accompaniment? If you mean one in the absence of which the . The analogy is unsatisfactory in apparently assigning no role to these predictions other than that of an unnecessary accompaniment to the movements of the leaves. there would have to be room for the possi­ bility that he misrecognizes. Now I'll go this way . reduction of intention to a species of desire. when we remember having meant to do something.' on a particular occasion. Looking at the verbal expression of intention is indeed of use for avoiding these particular dead-ends. i. Further. . The distinction.6 • INTENTION § 3 sets'. sc. But how do we know? If we asked him. or as having meant the words as an expression of intention'. except where it is used to answer the question in what sense a man meant the form of words' I am going to . cannot be left to be intuitively obvious. or it simply prompts us to use the words' I meant to . which description he justifies (if he does justify it) by reasons for acting. If this were correct. A man says' I am going for a walk' and we say ( that is an expression of intention. or as having had. We might attempt to make the distinction out by saying: an expression of intention is a description of something future in which the speaker is some sort of agent. but what does he know. not a prediction'. what memory reveals as having gone on in our consciousness is a few scanty items at most. . They are all reached in consequence of leaving the distinction between estimation of the future and expression of intention as something that just is intuitively obvious. which by no means add up to such an intention.. " without even a mental picture of which we judge the words to be an appropriate description. no doubt he would tell us. reasons why it would be useful or attractive if the description came true. and the topic remains rather mystifying. then. a kind of emotion. or irreducible intuition of the meaning of ' I intend '. and how? Wittgenstein has shown the impossibility of answering this question by saying' He recognizes himself as having.e. I can see nowhere else to go along this line. . I once saw some notes on a lecture of Wittgenstein in which he imagined some leaves blown about by the wind and saying . . But having got so far. now I'll go that way' as the wind blew them.

is it possible to find types of statement of the form 'A intends X ' which we can say have a . This sort of account is called an expression of intention. this. or for God or fate. reason' here is obviously a fruitful line of enquiry. and how do we know that they are true? That is to say. by a different sort of reason. I therefore turn to a new line of enquiry: how do we tell someone's intentions? or: what kind of true statements about people'S intentions can we certainly make.INTENTION � 3 -4 7 movements of the leaves would have been just the same. now the objection to it is not that it assigns a false role to our intentions. however. was not its purpose. whereby they are distinguished from estimates of the future. whether we take the wind as a symbol for the physical forces that affect us. therefore in giving this anti-freewill picture he was at liberty simply to leave the role of intention quite obscure. Now it may be that a correct description of the role of intention in our actions will not be relevant to the question of free will. they do not justify these accounts by producing reasons why they should be believed but. 4 . It just does occur in human language. but I prefer to consider this first in connexion with the notion of intentional action. But how do you know what the move­ ments of the leaves would have been if they had not been accom­ panied by those thoughts? If you mean that you could calculate their movements just by knowing the speed and direction of the winds and the weight and other properties of the leaves. People do in fact give accounts of future events in which they are some sort of agents. in any case I suspect that this was Wittgen­ stein's view. but only that it does not describe their role at all. leaves one in very much the same position as does the picture of the wind blowing the leaves. this enquiry has produced results which are indeed not false but rather mystifying. and these accounts are very often correct. If the concept of' intention ' is one's quarry. Now our account of expressions of intention. 'What is meant by . if at all. the analogy is certainly bad. That purpose was clearly some denial of free will. are you insisting that such calculations could not include calculations of their thoughts?-Wittgenstein was discussing free will when he produced this analogy.

if this were something he arrived at with difficulty. How come? Couldn't it look like that if he were sliding downhill in that position? Perhaps a Martian would give that description.) All I am here concerned to do is note the fact: we can simply say 'Look at a man and say what he is doing'-i. (b): ' I see a picture: it shows a man leaning on a stick and going up a steep path. cases you will be reporting not merely what he is doing. For whatever else he may intend. In this way. flor what is involved in the existence of such a straight-off description as ' She is sitting in a chair and writing '.' Et passim.e. and in general it would be his first account of what I was doing. but an intention of his-namely. or whatever may be his intentions in doing what he does. your selection from the immense variety of true statements about him which you might make would coincide with what he could say he was doing. (Not that this does not raise very inter­ esting questions. certainly without adverting to observation. though indeed in fewer. I can take a short cut here. See Philosophical Investigations. In most cases what you will say is that the man himself knows. say what would immediately come to your mind as a report to give someone who could not see him and who wanted to know what was to be seen in that place. with a view to shewing roughly the range of things to be discovered here. in a very large number of cases. I am referring to the sort of things you would say in a law court is you were a witness and were asked what a man was doing when you saw him. and what he knew straight off were precisely how I was affecting the acoustic properties of the room (to me a very recondite piece of information). the greater number of the things which you would say straight off a man did or was doing. and discuss neither how I am to select from the large number of true statements I could make about a person. then communication between us would be rather severely impaired. if you want to say at least some true things about a man's intentions.8 INTENTION §4 great deal of certainty? Well. p. to do that . and anyone grown to the age of reason in the same world would know this as soon as he saw me. perhaps even without reflection. and again in most. 59. I am sitting in a chair writing. will be things he intends. you will have a strong chance of success if you mention what he actually did or is doing. That is to say.

All this conspires to make us think that if we want to know a man's intentions it is into the contents of his mind. although i t remains a purely interior thing. a man can form an intention which he then does nothing to carry out. Another is that in general the question whether he intends to do what he does just does not arise (because the answer is obvious). consider the question. 5.tishes actions which are intentional from The answer that I sha ll suggest is that a those which are not? they are the actions to which certain Jense of the ques t io n . we must be investigating something whose existence is purely in the sphere of the mind. that if we wish to understand what intention is. w hile if it does arise. One reason for this is that in general we are interested. i. reason for acting ? " are one and the same. and hence. . And. either hecause he is prevented or because he changes his mind: but the intention itself can b e complete. the sense is of course that in which the answer.INTENTION § 4-5 9 thing . Now. gives a reason [or acting. still what physically takes pl ac e. because the question" What is the relevant sense of the question ' Why? ' " and" What is meant by . and this can very often not be seen from seeing what he doe s . What disting:. What is more. what a man actually does.e. Why?' is gi ve:1 application. and only into these. is the very last thing we need consider in our enquiry. finally. this will for the most part 'be clear without asking him. . To see the difficulties here. Whereas I wish to say that it is the first. But th is is not a sufficient statement. if positive. not just in a man's intention of doing what he does. that we must enquire. and that although intention issues in actions. Why did you knock the cup off the table?' answered by ' I thought I saw a face at the window and it made me jump '. it is rather often settled by asking him. With this preamble to go on to the second head of the div ision that I made in § I : intentional a ction . but in his intention in doing it. Now it can easily seem that in general the question w hat a man's intentions are is only authoritatively settled by him. and the way this happens also presents interesting questions. so far I have on ly characterised reason for acting by opposing it to evidence for supposing the thing will take place--but the' re aso n ' . if it is not an intention of his.

E. as opposed to a cause. It will hardly be enlightening to say: in the case of the sudden start the ' reason ' is a cause. perhaps we shall discover what is meant by 'acting' when it is said with this special emphasis. " is not acting in the sense suggested by the expression • reason for acting '. We need to find the difference between the two kinds of ' reason' without talking about'acting'. the' reason ' for a movement is a cause. and partly because one can also give a ' reason' which is only a' cause' for what is voluntary and intentional. all we know is that this is one of the places where we do use the word ' cause'. Nor can we say that since it mentions something previous to the action. Hence.10 INTENTION §. for the answer may' give a reason' in the former cases too. is one? The answer cannot be "Because the answer to the question 'why?' may give a reason in the latter cases". or crossing the road. the topic of causality is in a state of too great confusion. and ifwe do.g. though indeed we readily say e.' This is partly because in any case the object of the whole enquiry is really to delineate such concepts as the voluntary and the inten­ tional. this will be a cause rather than a reason. • What was the reason for your starting so violently?' this is totally unlike' What is your reason for excluding so-and-so from your will?' or ' What is your reason for sending for a taxi?'" But what is the difference? In neither case is the answer a piece of evidence. it is a reason. Why is giving a start or gasp not an 'action'. " Why . someone might say. Nor can we say: "-\Vell. and not a reason in the sense of ' reason for acting " when the movement is involuntary. we should be going round in circles. here was not evidence that I was going to knock the cup off the table. for if you ask 'Why did you kill him? ' the answer ' He killed my father ' is surely a reason rather than a cause. But we also know that this is a rather strange case of causality. while sending for a taxi.g. but what it mentions is previous to the action. "Giving a sudden st'l-rt ". but not a reason for acting ". and we cannot say "Ah. It is true that we don't ordinarily think of a case like giving a sudden start when we speak of a reason for acting. the subject is able to give the cause of a thought or feeling or bodily movement in the same kind of way as he is able to state the place of his pain or the position of his limbs. when the movement is voluntary and intentional.

and not under another. Not every case of this is a . Since a single action can have many different descriptions. Such an answer is.INTENTION § 5-6 II are you walking up and down like that ? -" It's that military " band. this pretence is not even plausible. but a claim. I will do the second job in two stages because what I say in the first stage of it will be of use in helping to explain the relevant sense of the question 'why ?'. while pretending to give a quick account.1sually more than half moralistic in meaning (and moralism. Possibly he did not know the word 'plank ' before. and so signed. you would have to cast about for what he might mean. it excites me". It cannot be plausibly given in every case. reas. has no application. e. 'sawing a plank '. " Intentional actions are ones to which a certain sense of the question 'why? ' has application". for example. 'sawing oak " 'sawing one of Smith's planks'. and chooses this way of expressing that. 6.g. Or" What made you sign the document at last ?"-" The thought: 'It is my duty ' kept hammering away in my mind until I said to myself ' I can do no other '. but these remarks are :. But this question as to what he might mean need not arise at all-e. that the question' Why did you do it (are you doing it) ? " in the required sense." It is very usual to hear that such-and-such are what we call . I will both explain this sense and describe cases shewing the question not to have application. and for the rest they leave our conceptual problems untouched. This question is refused application by the answer: 'I was . if you saw a man sawing a plank and asked'Why are you sawing that plank? " and he replied 'I didn't know I was sawing a plank'. as Bradley remarked.ons for acting ' and that it is 'rational ' or 'what we call rational ' to act for reasons. is bad for thinking). To clarify the proposed account. 'making a great deal of sawdust ' and so on and so on. 'making a squeaky noise with the saw '. not indeed a proof (since it may be a lie). if you ask someone why he is standing on a hose-pipe and he says'I didn't know I was '. In any case. since such remarks contain no hint of what it is to act for reasons. not aware I was doing that'.g. it is important to notice that a man may know that he is doing a thing under one description.

and so claims that the question ' Why? ' has no application. 7. since the notion of the involuntary pretty obviously covers notions of exactly the type that a philosophical enquiry into intention ought to be elucidating.g. If anyone is tempted by this view. the statement that a man knows he is doing X does not imply the statement that. and if with an animal. he cannot always be con­ futed by the fact that he was attentive to those of his own pro­ ceedings in which doing X consisted. when a man says'I was not aware that I was doing X '.12 INTENTION § 7 case of his knowing that he is doing one part of what he is doing and not another (e. But I cannot use this as it stands. That is. even though the action was something of which one was aware. So to say that a man knows he is doing X is to give a description of what he is doing under which he knows it. say food. digressing for a moment. For this reason. Of course they are only interested in bodily movements. and that they are not giving a special technical sense to the word. they take movements in which the animal is e.he should consider that physiologists are interested in voluntary action. they say that if they are dealing with a grown human they ask him. he knows that he is doing that thing. which says they are appropriately used only when a person has done something untoward.g. but sawing an oak plank or Smith's plank is not something else that he is doing besides just sawing the plank that he is sawing. If you ask them what their criterion is. he knows he is sawing but not that he is making a squeaky noise with the saw). It is also clear that one is refusing application to the question 'Why?' (in the relevant sense) if one says: 'It was involuntary '. Thus. trying to get at something. Here. the movement by which a dog cocked its ear at a sudden sound would not be used as an example. He may know that he is sawing a plank.concerning anything which is also his doing X.but not that he is sawing an oak plank or Smith's plank. We can also easily get confused by the fact that'involuntary' . This does not mean that every description of action in which its voluntariness can be considered is of interest to physio­ logists. I should like to reject a fashionable view of the terms 'voluntary ' and 'involuntary'.

it is not as if he were going by a tingle in his knee. nor has an unproblematic sense of its own. Consider the four following examples of the involun­ tary : (a) The peristaltic movement of the gut. (c) 'He withdrew his hand in a movement of involuntary recoil. but that is not generally so when we know the position of our limbs. This can be done as follows: we first point out a particular class of things which are true of a man: namely the class of things which he knows without obsertlation. without prompting. which is a class of bodily movements in a purely physical descrip­ tion. 8. intentional ' ? Obviously I cannot. Example (b) belongs to this class. The odd sort of jerk or jump that one's whole body sometimes gives when one is falling asleep. because nothing shews him the position of his limbs. (b). we can sqy it. a man usually knows the position of his limbs without observation. ' Faced with examples like (c) and (d). It is without observation. which it is possible to introduce without begging any questions or assuming that we understand notions of the very type I am professing to investigate. The involuntary benefit I did him by a stroke I meant to harm him. In fact this pair of concepts is altogether very confusing. E.INTENTION § 7-8 nelther means simply non-voluntary. Other examples are tics. I say however that we know it and not merely can sqy . What is required is to describe this class without using any notions like 'intended ' or 'willed ' or 'voluntary ' and . having which is in some sense our criterion for saying something. reflex kicks from the knee. Where we can speak of separately describable sensations.g. the lift of the arm from one's side after one has leaned heavily with it up against a wall.' (d) . then we can speak of observing that thing. involuntary '. which is the sign that it is bent and not straight. Yet. There is however a class of the things that fall under the concept ' involuntary '. how can I introduce'It was involuntary ' as a form for rejecting the question'Why ? ' in the special sense which I want to elucidate-when the whole purpose of the elucidation is to give an account of the concept .

if you say that your foot. but these do not interest us. but not that being able to say where one feels pain is a case of something known. not the damage) has to be accepted by someone 1 tell it to. but not unintelligible. As e. this may be surprising but is not particularly obscure. if one noticed that one operated the traffic lights in crossing a road. not your hand. So I call this sort of being able to say ' knowledge' and not merelY • being able to say'. Bodily movements like the peristaltic movement of the gut are involuntary. and our task is to mark off this class without begging the questions we are trying to answer. although there is a similarity between giving the position of one's limbs and giving the place of one's pain. I have already said that • I was not aware I was doing that ' is a rejection of the question • Why? ' whose sense we are trying to get at. and you have no fear of or objection to an inconsiderate handling of your foot. Whereas if someone says that his leg is bent when it is straight.INTENTION §8 it.g. is very sore. but it is your hand you nurse. Thus. and yet you point to your foot as the sore part: and so on. This is not because the place of pain (the feeling. But here we should say that it was difficult to guess what you could mean. without observation. The involuntary that interests us is restricted to the class of things known without observation. I should wish to say that one ordinarily knows the position of one's limbs. because there is a possibility of being right or wrong: there is point in speaking of knowledge only where a contrast exists between ' he knows' and ' he (merely) thinks he knows '.g. E. etc. but only because I observed it ' would also be a rejection of it. as you would . for a man does not know his body is making them except by observation. for we can imagine circumstances in which it is not accepted. He is wrong in what he says. because it makes it possible to describe the particular class of ' involuntary actions ' which I have so far indicated just by giving a few examples: these are actions like the example (b) above. here I can further say • I knew I was doing that. But the class of things known without observation is also of special interest in this part of our enquiry. inference. Now the class of things known without observation is of general interest to our enquiry because the class of intentional actions is a sub-class of it.

I thought I had given a reflex kick. It may mention a cause. (Thus my jump back­ wards at the leap and bark of the crocodile does not belong to this subclass of involuntary actions. ' Why ?'-and an answer is the reason for thinking so. Or ' There was an ancient British camp here '. ' Why did you j ump back suddenly like that ? ' ' The leap and loud bark of that crocodile made me jump '. I first. E. and where there is no such thing as a cause known without observation. an answer to the question ' Why ?' which does not give reason for thinking the thing true does not therefore give a reason for acting. but I did not observe that making me jump. For though one might say .) But in examples like (b) the cause of motion is known on!J through observation.-' Why ? ' ' Because . as the sensation ' like going down in a lift ' is. if at ali. as opposed to a reason for thinking them true. and this is far from what we want. ' Being told startling news gives one that sensation' : the sensation is not separable. .g. ' There will be an eclipse tomorrow '. So I here already distinguished a sense of ' Why ? " in which the answer mentions evidence. when I hadn't moved ' one would never say e. However we noticed that there are contexts in which there is some difficulty in describing the distinction between a . which are known without observation. then. when one's knee is tapped " this is not like e. But as we have already noted.) This subclass can be described without our first having clarified the concept ' involun­ tary '.INTENTION § 8-9 know even with your eyes shut that you had kicked when the doctor tapped your knee. If you speak of ' that sensation which one has in reflex kicking. (1 am not saying I did not observe the crocodile barking . To assign a movement to it will be to reject the question ' Why ? ' 9. Now among things known without observation must be included the causes of some movements. said that they were predictions justified. .g. by a reason for acting. in a purely physical description. in considering expressions of intention. but cannot identify a sensation by which you know it. is the class of move­ ments of the body. This class of involuntary actions. ' the sensation of going down in a lift '.g. '-and an answer is the reason for thinking so.

in considering feelings.) What he was frightened of was the bit of stuff. As e. . (' The martial music excites me. that is why I walk up and down') but also for feelings and even thoughts. is not as such the cause of fear. This sort of cause of a feeling or reaction may be reported by the person himself. you may be angry at someone's action. con­ sider the following cases : A child saw a bit of red stuff on a turn in a stairway and asked what it was. the cause of his fright was his nurse remark. In considering actions. Or again. but. if their attention were drawn to it they might insist that the word ' cause' was inappropriate or was quite equivocal. it is important to distinguish between mental causes and objects of feeling. even when it is not the same as the object. as Wittgenstein1 remarks. as well as recognised by someone else. when we give a ready answer to the question ' Why did you knock the cup off the table ? '-' I saw such-and-such and it !!lade !!Ie jU!!Ip. 1 Philosophical Invesli galions § 476. or someone's telling you of it. 10. it is important to distinguish between mental causes and motives . To see this. not only for actions 'mental cause '.16 INTENTION § 9-10 cause and a reason. The object of fear may be 's the cause of fear. Note that this sort of causality or sense of ' causality' is so far from accommodating itself to Hume explanations that people who believe that Hume 's pretty well dealt with the topic of causality would entirely leave it out of their calculations . He thought his nurse told him it was a bit of Satan and felt dreadful fear of it. and hence the two are easily confused). such as fear or anger. but hardly for the patient's. Or conceivably they might try to give a Humian account of the matter as far as concerned the outside observer's recognition of the cause .g. (A hideous face appearing at the window would of course be both cause and object. I will call the type of cause in question a Mental causes are possible. when what makes you angry is some reminder of it. ' Now we can see that the cases where this diffi culty arises are just those where the cause itself qua cause (or perhaps one should rather say : the causation itself) is in the class of things known without observation. (No doubt she said it was a bit of satin.

. . ' or ' Out of a desire that . But it is not in all cases that C I did so and so in order to . . and laughed.g. Nor do I wish to say that it always has an answer in cases where it can be made. what went on in my mind and issued in the action-I should perhaps give this account . That particular enquiry is not very often made. A mental cause is what someone would describe if he were asked the specific question : what produced this action or thought or feeling on your part : what did you see or hear or feel. .g. the knock on the door must be hea rd -so if in this sense anyone wishes to say it is always a mental event. . It could be that all that happened was this : I read the message. For couldn't it be recast in the form : ' Because I wanted . '.INTENTION §II 17 I I . . . If I describe this by saying . I might answer the question what Jed to this action by mentioning the desire as having made me . . . . this does not necessarily mean that I had the thought C If I do this. but need not. Then if the question ' Why did you do that ? ' is put by someone who makes it clear that he wants me to mention the mental causes­ e. he will . or what ideas or images cropped up in . simply hear a knock on the door and go downstairs to open it without experiencing any such desire. I fill a desire that . it must be something perceived by the person affected-e.e. This may have happened. ' and that affected me with a desire of bringing it about. it might be a knock on the door. tore the message up. etc. '? If a feeling of desire to eat apples affects me and I get up and go to a cupboard where I think there are some. I may e. ' A ' mental cause " o f course. ' can be backed up by . . need not be a mental event. i.g. Or suppose I feel an upsurge of spite against someone and destroy a message he has received so that he shall miss an appointment. I wanted to make him miss that appointment '. . But if it is not a mental event. which led up to my doing so. Now one might think that when the question ' Why ? ' is answered by giving the intention with which a person acts -for example by mentioning something future-this is also a case of a mental cause. but normally the reply would be no such thing. . . I have no objection. . had the thought ' That unspeakable man I ' with feelings of hatred. One might shrug or say ' I don't know that there was any definite history of the kind you mean " or ' It merely occurred to me. a thought or feeling or image .

for I believe that it is of very little.e. we hear of ' the motive of gain ' . he only wanted to make peace among his relations. and desire o gain the motive. or ' I did it in order to . and led up to it ? I have isolated this notion of a mental cause because there is such a thing as this question with this sort of answer. and yet the meaning of the two phrases is here identical. some philo­ sophers have wanted to say that such an expression must be elliptical . partly because a very natural conception of e motive ' is that it is what moves (the very word suggests that)-glossed as ' what callses ' a man's actions etc. " which would please such philosophers . But it is important to have a clear idea of it. E.18 INTENTION § I I. . a man might say ' I wanted to . When a man's motives are called good. And ' what causes ' them is perhaps then thought of as an event that brings the effect about-though how it does-i. " which would not . or in some other way-is of course completely obscure. these might indeed be cast in the forms C to release him from this awful suffering '.g. his motive is what determines the aim or choice . Popularly motive and intention are not treated as so distinct in meaning. I z. E. rather than because it is in itself of very great importance . f Asked for a motive.g.g. . they are perhaps expressive of the spirit in which the man killed rather than descriptive of the end to which the killing was a means-a future state of affairs to be . or to have done it out of hatred . but though these are forms of expression suggesting objectives. whether it should be thought of as a kind of pushing in another medium. if a man kills someone. this may be in no way distinct from calling his intentions good-e. he may be said to have done it out of love and pity. . Nevertheless there is even popularly a distinctic n between the meaning of ' motive ' and the meaning of ' intention '. A man's intention is what he aims at or chooses . and because I want to distinguish it from the ordinary senses of ' motive ' and C intention '. gain must be the intention.I 2 your mind. In philosophy a distinction has sometimes been drawn between our motives and our intentions in acting as if they were quite different things. or C to get rid of the swine ' . and I suppose that ' determines ' must here be another word for ' causes '. .

he is not giving a ' mental cause ' in the sense that I have given to that phrase. as the determinants of choice. to which this question belongs. Motives may explain actions to us . ' and similar things. As for the importance of considering the motives of an action.INTENTION §12 produced by the killing. But both of these inclinations are mistaken. and that ' motive ' means anything but intention. it is restricted to the wider field of things the agent knows about not . so distinct. I am very glad not to be writing either ethics or literary criticism. it interprets his action. We shall create confusion if we do not notice (a) that phenomena deserving the name of mental causality exist. speaking popularly. . intention '. And further. But it appears to me that the mental causes are seldom more than a very trivial item among the things that it would be reasonable to consider.-The fact that the mental causes were such-and-such may indeed help to make his claim intelligible. And this shows us part of the dis­ tinction that there is between the popular senses of motive and intention. actions. without saying what he knows or even half knows to be untrue-yet a consideration of various things. (b) that mental causality is not restricted to choices or voluntary or intentional actions. but that is not to say that they ' determine " in the sense of causing. may easily be inclined to deny both that there is any such thing as mental causality. and in a sense in which ' motive ' is not interchangeable with . though he may say that his motive was this or that one straight off and without lying-i. might possibly lead both him and other people to judge that his declara­ tion of his own motive was false. ' motive for an action ' has a rather wider and more diverse application than ' intention with which the action was done '. But this means rather 'He did this in that he loved the truth ' . We should say : popularly. as opposed to considering the intention. for we can make the question ' Why ? ' into a request for the sort of answer that I considered under that head . but is of wider application . and no doubt such expressions help us to think that a motive must be what produces or brings about a choice.e. His love of truth caused him to . When a man says what his motive was. . Someone who sees the confusions involved in radically distinguishing between motives and intentions and in defining motives. which may include the mental causes. We do say : .

motives. . X. And if we wanted to explain e. We might compare this answer. to the answer describing a concrete future state of affairs which we sometimes get in statements of objectives. ' and describe what he did in an admiring way. Consider the statement that one motive for my signing a petition was admiration for its promoter. Whereas saying that someone does something out of. Motive-in-general is a very difficult topic which I do not want to discuss at any length. It is the same with gratitude. which describes a concrete past event. love or curiosity or despair in just this way : something that has happened (or is at present happen­ ing) is given as the ground of an action or abstention that is good or bad for the person (it may be oneself. say. and pity for something specific. say.g. as with remorse) at whom it is aimed. He recommends construing ' he boasted . and contrast them with motive-in-general. revenge. we should not need to add to this a description of the feelings prompting the action or of the thought that had gone with it. for one thing. I know that is not a ground for signing it. friendship cannot be explained in any such way. These motives differ from. I reply ' Because he killed my brother '. but I am sure it was one of the things that most influenced me '-which need not mean : ' I thought explicitly of this before signing '. we should say it was harming someone because he had done one some harm .10 INTENTION § I Z-1 3 as an observer. and remorse. 1 3. if I kill a man as an act of revenge I may say I do it in order to be revenged. did . Revenge and gratitude are motives . and (d) that there is an application for ' motive ' other than the applications of ' the intention with which a man acts '. let us not consider it here '. who is promoting it. It is too complicated. or that revenge is my object . The account of motive popularised by Professor Ryle does not appear satisfactory. . but revenge is not some further thing obtained by killing him. (c) that motives are not mental causes . I say ' Consider this ' really with a view to saying . I might add ' Of course. I will call revenge and gratitude and remorse and pity backward-looking X. Asked why I kill him. it is rather that killing him is revenge. Asked ' Why did you sign it ?' I might well say ' Well. so that it includes some involuntary actions .

g. not just a mental cause ? Now the most striking thing about these four is the way in which good and evil are involved in them. or for something that I did not find bad.INTENTION § 1 3 -1 4 2. pity and remorse. or at least I think he has. E. I could not express remorse by getting myself plenty of enjoyments. . he boasted . I hate some good things for myself. If I do something out of revenge which is in fact advantageous rather 1 Th. To explain one's own actions by an account indicating a motive is to put them in a certain light. This passage is rather curious and roundabout in expression . it is because he has done me some good. or in order that . . should not happen. and I can't understand it unless it implies. friendship. that a man could not be said to have boasted from vanity unless he always behaved vainly. and his doing so satisfies the law-like proposition that whenever he finds a chance of securing the admiration and envy of others. This sort of explanation is often elicited by the question ' Why ?' The question whether the light in which one so puts one's action is a true light is a notoriously difficult one. as opposed to backward-looking motives and intentions) is to say something like ' See the action in this light '. Leaving then. The motives admiration. p. 1 from vanity ' as saying . or at least very very often did so. despair and a host of others are either of this extremely complicated kind or are forward-looking or mixed. In remorse. I call a motive forward-looking if it is an intention. the topic of motive-in-general or ' inter­ pretative ' motive. often comes to the same as saying he did so lest . the past event (or present situation) is a reason for acting. to say that someone did something for fear of . To give a motive (of the sort I have labelled ' motive-in­ general '. and I cannot show gratitude by something that I intend to harm him. 1 4 . let us return to backward-looking motives. . 89' f . it seems to say. . he does whatever he thinks will produce this admiration and envy ' 1. . Why is it that in revenge and gratitude. love of truth. . Concept o Mind. For example. fear. . But this does not seem to be true. spite. if I am grateful to someone. curiosity. .

Plato saying to a slave ' I should beat you if I were not angry ' would be a case. I thought'. we can so far describe it only as an action predicted by the agent. Here it may be worth while to remark that it is a mistake to think one cannot choose whether to act from a motive. or unadmiringly. in order for the thing in the past to be the reason for the action. or with his mentioning in justifica­ tion a reason for acting . These facts are the clue to our present problem. was quite harmless or was beneficial. Whether in general good and harm play an essential part in the concept of intention it still remains to find out. in its description of being advantageous to him. We have now distinguished between a backward-looking motive and a mental cause. my action. No such discovery would affect an assertion of mental causality. and found that. But if we say this. ' I am going to kill him'-' Why ?'-' He killed my father'. So far they have only been introduced . Might one not predict mental causes and their effects ? Or even their effects after the causes have occurred ? E.g. This will come out in the agent's elaborations on his answer to the question ' Why ? ' It might seem that this is not the most important point. here at any rate. either without his justifying his prediction at all. Or a man might have a policy of never making remarks about a certain person because he could not speak about that man unenviously. is involuntary. ' This is going to make me angry '. and the answer be a mention of something past. except prefaced by . what the agent reports in answer to the question ' Why ?' is a reason for acting if in treating it as a reason he conceives it as something good or bad. or that in which he has revenged himself. and the meaning of the expression • reason for acting ' is precisely what we are at present trying to elucidate. If it is a proposed revenge he either gives it up or changes his reason.zz INTENTION § 14 than harmful to my enemy. If an action has to be thought of by the agent as doing good or harm of some sort. If you could e. and his own action as doing good or harm. we show that we are forgetting the course of our enquiry. then this reason shews not a mental cause but a motive. we do not yet know what a proposed action is . but that the important point is that a proposed action can be questioned.g. he ceases to offer a reason. show that either the action for which he has revenged himself. and the thing in the past as good or bad.

this is already distinguished from a mental cause j ust by being future. And how would one distinguish between cause and reason in such a case as having hung one's hat on a peg because one's host said • Hang up your hat on that peg ' ? Nor.INTENTION § 1 4. 15. would it be correct to say that this is a reason and not a mental cause because of the understanding of the words that went into accepting the sug­ gestion. Here one would be attempting a contrast between this case and. or as a response surrounded with thoughts and questions. Further. hut this is not particularly different from hanging one's hat up because one's host said • Hang your hat up '. one would probably decide by how sudden one's reaction was. there is no question of understanding a sentence in the following case : ' Why did you waggle your two fore-fingers by your temples ? '-' Because he was doing it ' . for that was explained as what one is after if one asks the agent what led up to and issued in an action.q and a mental cause. the more inclined one would be to use the word . let us consider this case : Why did you do it ? Because he told me to. Now. while the more it is described as a response to something as having a significance that is dwelt on by the agent in his account. as making a clear difference between a backward-looking motive When the question ' Why ? ' about a present action is answered by a description of a future state of affairs. Is this a cause or a reason ? It appears to depend very much on what the action was or what the circumstances were. forced to choose between taking the noise as a reason and as a cause. say. however. and its being a cause of the kind in ques­ tion . Hence there does not so far seem to be any need to say that intention as such is intention of good or of harm. I think. But his being given a reason to act and accepting it might be such a thing. turning round at hearing someone say Boo l But this case would not in fact be decisively on one side or the other. . Roughly speaking-if one were forced to go on with the distinction-the more the action is described as a mere response. And we should often refuse to make any distinction at all between some­ thing's being a reason. the more inclined one would be to the word ' cause ' .

In cases (b) and (c) the answer is already characterised as a reason for acting. as an answer to the question ' Why ? ' in the requisite sense . i. Thus the full-blown cases are the right ones to consider in order to see the distinction between reason and cause. are the ones to which the question ' Why ? ' is given application. Intentional actions are a sub-class of the events in a man's history which are known to him not just because he observes them. which is marked off by the fact that mental causality is excluded from it. Intentional actions. positively. then. (b) give an interpretation of the action. 1 6.e. does not mean that it never has a point. since there are involuntary actions from which mental causality is not excluded. and mental causality is itself characterized by being known without observation. or (c) mention something future. In this wider class is included one type of involuntary actions. Roughly speaking. the case of e. It will be useful at this stage to summarize conclusions reached so far.24 INTENTION § 1 �-16 . But inten­ tional actions are not marked off just by being subject to mental causality. in a special sense which is so far explained as follows : the question has not that sense if the answer is evidence or states a cause. The cases on which we first grounded the distinction might be called ' full-blown ' : that is to say. he is my father '. however. But it is worth noticing that what is so commonly said. is not true. revenge on the one hand. it would have been the worse for me if I hadn't ' give the original answer a place among reasons . the answer may (a) simply mention past history. But in very many cases the distinction would have no point. reasons ' here of course conforms to our general explanation. it establishes something as a reason if one argues against it . that reason and cause are everywhere sharply distinct notions. and in case (a) it is an answer to that question if the ideas of good or harm are . reason ' . . and of the thing that made one jump and knock a cup off a table on the other. not as when one says ' Noises should not make you jump like that : hadn't you better see a doctor ? ' but in such a way as to link it up with motives and intentions : ' You did it because he told you to ? But why do what he says ? ' Answers like ' he has done a lot for me " .g. including a mental cause . This. .

if one said ' What made you jump like that ? ' when someone had just jerked with the spasm which one sometimes gets as one is dropping off to sleep. The question is not refused application because the answer to it says that there is no reason. " but is appropriate to actions in which some special reason seems to be demanded. any more than the question how much money I have in my pocket is refused application by the answer ' None '. It goes with ' I found myself doing it '. ' I heard myself say . he would brush aside the question or say ' It was involuntary­ you know. E. or again if further enquiry elicits that it is connected with ' interpretative ' motive. I do not call an answer of this sort a rejection of the question. . There was a third circumstance as well. since one can be a bit surprised without wanting to use such an .g. the way one does sometimes jump like that ' . This would come out if for example the only way in which a question as to cause was dealt with was to speculate about it. We saw that it was refused applica­ tion if the agent's answer was ' I was not aware I was doing that ' and also if the answer implied 'I observed that I was doing that '. Now of course a possible answer to the question ' Why ? ' is one like ' I just thought I would ' or ' It was an impulse ' or ' For no particular reason ' or ' It was an idle action-I was just doodling '. now a mark of the rejection of that particular question ' What made you ? ' is that one says things like ' I don't know if anyone knows the cause ' or ' Isn't it something to do with electrical discharges ?' and that this is the only sense that one gives to ' cause ' here. It suggests surprise at one's own actions . An answer of rather peculiar interest is : ' I don't know why I did it '. I can now complete my account of when our question ' Why ? ' is shewn notto apply. or intention with which. 17. in which the question would have no application : namely that in which the action is somehow characterised as one in which there is no room for what I called mental causality. This can have a sense in which it does not mean that perhaps there is a causal explanation that one does not know. .1 7 involved i n its meaning as an answer . or to give reasons why such and such should be regarded as the cause.INTENTION § 1 6. and one has none. but that is not a sufficient condition for saying it.

as it has become too much of a set form . I shall later be discussing the difference between the intentional and the voluntary .1. I disregard this use of it. And we shall see (§2 5 ) that there are other more ordinary cases where the <juestion ' Why ? ' is not made Oftt to be inapplicable. Sometimes one may say : ' Now why did I do that ? '-when one has discovered that. 6 hTENTlON § 1 7. if only he knew it. But ' I don't know why I did it ' may be said by someone who does not discover that he did it. rather than intentional. and gave one of these answers to the question ' Why ? ' his words would be unintelligible unless as I . 1 8. but of course that is not the case in the relevant sense . it has application in the sense that it is admitted as an appropriate question . Answers like ' No particular reason ' . but that does not make me suppose them to be senseless. I myself have never wished to use these words in this way. e. sometimes strange . it lacks it in the sense that the answer is that there is . but he comes out with this expression as if to say ' It is the sort of action in which a reason seems requisite '.10 answer. where however it tends to go with ' it was an impulse '. he is quite aware as he does it . it is only in not be�ng deterred by obvious considerations. . and yet is not granted application. even if psychoanalysis persuades him to accept something as his reason. or a causal explanation in his having been previously hypnotised. for example. and once that distinction is made we shall be able to say : an action of this sort is voluntary. if someone hunted out all the green books in his house and spread them out carefully on the roof. or he finds a reason in a divine or diabolical plan or inspiration. That is to say.1 8 expression-if one has uttered a witticism of a sort that i s not one's usual style. They are a curious intermediary case : the question ' Why ? ' has and yet has not application . and sometimes unintelligible. not in thinking of doing such a thing) . As if there were a reason. and so on are often <juite intelligible .g. one has just put something in a rather odd place. and it does not in fact seem strange to be attracted to commit trivial crimes without any need (if there is anything strange. I don't know why I did it ' perhaps is rather often said by people caught in trivial crimes. ' I just thought would '.

Philosophical Investigations .g. 27 not j oking and mystification. • Perhaps congenitally blind people have visual images '. The result of the argument. . etc. sense that is senseless ' is the games '. . If we say ' it does not make sense for this man to say he did this for no particular reason ' we are not • excluding a form of words from the language' . we are saying ' we cannot understand such a man '. The next move is to see what is the language­ game played with • having a visual image ' or mind's eye '. They would be because one did not known what thry meant. sometimes strange. These different sorts of unintelligibility are worth dwelling on briefly.' Hence The ' exclusion from the The therapies '. The argument goes some­ thing like this : What does it mean ?-That they have what I have when I have a visual image. the suggestion arises from a ' false assimilation of But our present case is entirely different. And what have 1 ?-Something like this. but because one could not make out what the man meant by saying them here. (Wittgen­ stein seems to have moved from an interest in the first sort of ' not making sense ' to the second as developed. type of sense that our expressions suggest . if it is successful. or rather.INTENTION § lR unintelligible. Wittgenstein said that when we call something senseless it is not as it were its sense that is senseless.!m with the right reference (this has been shewn by the argument against private ostensive definition). is that • we no longer want to say Wittgenstein's talk of • Perhaps blind men . that a language-game can only be identified as that latter one if the former language-game too is played with the words used. but a form of words is being excluded from the language.-Here Wittgenstein would go on to argue against private ostensive definition. It isn't • seeing in one's jllst saying these things-nor can it be explained as saying th. But the argument for ' exclud­ ing this form of words from the language ' is apparently an argument that • its sense is senseless '. language ' is done not by legislation but by persuasion. E. . ' I was not aware that I was doing so ' is sometimes intelligible.) Similarly. The conclusion is that the language-game with ' seeing ' is a necessary part of the language-game with ' seeing in the mind's eye ' . and in some cases would be unintelligible.

or as having an internal relation to a description. more extensive in range than the answers which give reasons for acting. can possibly determine the content . Are we to say that I. I will not ask wf?y this question ' Why ? ' should be applicable to some events and not to others. 8 INTENTION § 1 8. The answers to the question ' Why ? ' which give it an appli­ cation are.1 9 I t would take considerable skill t o use language with frequent unintelligibility of this sort. We do not add anything attaching to the action at the time it is done by describing it as intentional. or movement of his body ? If so. It is however something actually done that is intentional. To call it inten­ tional is to assign it to the class of intentional actions and so to indicate that we should consider the question ' Why ? ' relevant to it in the sense that I have described. since the same action can be intentional under one descrip­ tion and unintentional under another. And with this we have roughly outlined the area of intentional actions. This question ' Why ? ' can now be defined as the question expecting an answer in this range. and nothing in the contraction of the muscles. which is supposed to be the feature in virtue of which what he does is an intentional action. Now the intentional character of the action cannot be asserted without giving the description under which it is inten­ tional. Let us call it ' preintentional '. but it would generally be false to call his contraction of muscles the intentional act that he performed. That an action is not called ' intentional ' in virtue of any extra feature which exists when it is performed. then. then the preintentional move­ ment + I guarantees that an intentional action is performed : but which one ? Clearly our symbol ' I ' must be interpreted as a description. it would be as difficult as to train oneself in the smooth production of long unrehearsed word­ salads. This does not mean that his contraction of muscles was unintentional. For the moment. But nothing about the man considered by himself in the moment of contracting his muscles. and let us call it ' I ' . is something which accompanies a preintentional action. of an action. A man no doubt contracts certain muscles in picking up a hammer . 19. if there is an intentional action at all. is clear from the following : Let us suppose that there is such a feature.2.

g. unless we suppose a mechanism by which an I appropriate to the situation is able to occur because of the man's knowledge of the situation-he guesses e. And in describing intentional actions as such. and to call an action intentional is to say it is inten­ tional under some description that we give (or could give) of it. since a mart may very likely not be so much as aware of his preintentional acts. for which we shall have to look for a second I. Then it is a mere happy accident that an I relevant to the wider context and further consequences ever accompanies the preintentional movements in which a man performs a given intentional action. or in the . and we must give it up. E. it would not be usual for me to say that he crossed the road intentionally. What makes it true that the man's movement is one by which he performs such and such an action will have absolutely no bearing on the I that occurs. look up and down.g. 1f I saw a man. turn towards the roadway. it will be a mistake to look for the fundamental description of what occurs­ such as the movements of muscles or molecules-and then think of intention as something. we surely want I to have some effect on what happens. which therefore may be any one. The question does not normally arise whether a man's proceedings are intentional . The only events to consider are intentional actions themselves. But it would be wrong to infer from this that we ought not to give such an action as a typical example of intentional action. which qualifies this.INTENTION § 19 of that description . It would however be equally a mistake to say : since this man's crossing the road is an example of an intentional action. and then walk across the road when it was safe for him to do so. who was walking along the pavement. if we are merely considering what can be determined about the man by himself in the moment. But that cannot very well be. Besides. that his muscular contractions will result in his grasping the hammer and so the right I occurs. and let us try to find in the action. perhaps very complicated. hence it is often ' odd ' to call them so. and so summon up l ? But that turns the summoning up of I into an intentional action itself. Does he then notice that I is followed often enough by its description's coming true. Thus the assumption that some feature of the moment of acting constitutes actions as intentional leads us into inextricable confusions. let us consider this action by itself.

I will make two raciler curious suppositions : (a) Suppose that ' intention ' only occurred as it occurs in ' intentional action '.INTENTION § 1 9-20 man himself at the moment of acting.e. were ' I just am. and in a similar fashion : ' What are you sad about ? ' may be asked. It is clear that a concept for which this does not hold is not a concept of intention. the applicability of the question ' Why ? ' would remain. on this interpretation of our supposition (a). but not about anything. the characteristic which makes the action intentional. of course. be without consequences . That is to say. of the concept of intention ? To test this. and (b) suppose that the only answer to the question ' Why are you X�ing ? '. so that the very same pro� ceedings are intentional under one description and unintentional under another. or that one is not sad. which in turn may mean that one is sad. granted that the question is not refused application. carries a suggestion that ' intentional action ' means as it were ' intentious action '. 20. is ' intentional ' a characteristic of the actions that have it. because the very same human proceedings may be questioned under the description . It would not. (a) This supposition. and may receive either a positive answer or the answer ' Nothing ' . we shall have to suppose that a man who. intentional " if there were no such thing as expression of intention for the future. is asked . that an action's being intentional is rather like a facial expression's being sad. we might say.:. except on pain of being a liar if in fact he was X-ing . X ' ( ' Why are you X-ing ? ') and under the description ' Y ' (' Why are you Y-ing ? ') . Why are you X-ing ? ' can never profess unawareness that he was X-ing. But of course the diagnosis of a melancholy expression has consequences too. . Intention. with which is associated the question ' Why ? ' This however is quite contrary to the concept of intention. which is formally independent of those other occurrence. that's all '. or as further intention in acting ? I. Would intentional actions still have the characteristic . has become a style-characteristic of observable human proceedings. and the first question be admitted appli­ cation while the second is refused it. having been seen clearly. If we try to make it retain this characteristic by suggesting that the proceedings-in-a-given­ description are what bears the stamp of intention.

INTENTION

§ 2.0

3J

And this supposition would involve such radical changes that it becomes impossible to say whether we could still see a place for the concept of intention at all, or diagnose the question ' Why ? ' as having in part the same sense as our question ' Why ? ' We should merely have a question to which possible answers were ' I just was, that's all " ' I wasn't " mention of something in the past like ' He killed my father ', or a sentimental characterisation of the action. For of course answers giving further intentions are excluded ex hypothesi, since if they were included the possible substitutions for ' X ' in 'A intends X ' would include more than the supposition allows. We can however try to give a different interpretation to supposition (a) . Intention still only occurs in present action. That is, there is still no such thing as the further intention with which a man does what he does; and no such thing as intention for the future. Intention however is not a style that marks an action, or an action-in-a-description; for it is possible for a man to think he is doing one thing when he is not doing that thing but another. Thus he can say that he did not know he was doing something, when asked why he did it. We must not however be too sweeping in excluding intention with which a man does what he does; for we must presumably allow the further intention with which he is doing X, say Y, so long as it is reasonable to say that he is doing Y in, and at the same time as, doing X : e.g. a man can be said to hold a glass to his lips with (at least) the intention of drinking, if he is drinking when he holds it to his lips. What is excluded from the supposition is a further intention Y such that we could object that he is not yet doing Y but only doing X with a view to doing Y, as when a man takes his gun down with a view to shooting rabbits. In this case intentional actions will be marked out as those of which a man has non-observational knowledge, and for which there is a question whose answers fall in the range (a) , I j ust did • (b) backward looking motive, and (c) sentimental characterisation. (a) is of no interest ; so our question must be : is motive enough to constitute intentional actions as a special kind ? One can argue against motives-i.e. criticise a man for having acted on such a motive-but a great deal of the point of doing so will be gone if we imagine the expression of intention for the future to be

INTENTION

§ 2.0

absent, as it is on our hypothesis. That is why on this hypothesis giving an interpretative motive turns into sentimental character­ isation. It seems reasonable to say that if the only occurence of intention were as the intention of doing whatever one is doing, the notion of intentional action itself would be a very thin one ; it is not clear why it should be marked off as a special class among all those of a man's actions and movements which are known to him without observation, any more than we mark off movements that are expressions of emotion as a distinct and important class of happenings. (b) By the second supposition, though intention is supposed to occur both in present intentional action and in expressions of intention for the future, the only answer to the question ' Why ? ' is ' I just am '. (Naturally ' further intention with which' a man acts is excluded by this hypothesis,for it is expressed in a type of answer to the question ' Why ? ' which is excluded.) If this were so, then there would be no special sense of the question ' Why ? ' and no distinct concept of intentional action at all. That is to say, it would no longer be possible to differ­ entiate within the class of acts known without observation. For a question whose only answer is a statement that one is doing the thing cannot be identified with our question ' Why ? ', even if the word for it is one used in requests for evidence and enquiries into causality. Thus on the present hypothesis there would be no distinction between such things as starts and gasps and, quite generally, voluntary actions. It is natural to think that the difference is one that we can see in the things themselves. To be sure, all these things will be alike as regards the way we know that they are taking place­ but isn't there an introspectively discernible difference between an involuntary gasp and a voluntary intake of breath ?-Well, one may be more sudden than the other. Still, I can voluntarily do it quite quickly, so that is not the difference.-Should we say the voluntary kind can be foreseen, predicted ?-But the involun­ tary kind might be predicted.-But the basis of the prediction won't be the same I-To be sure ; but the difference between bases of prediction is just the difference between evidence and a reason for acting. Though ' I just did, that's all ' is an answer to the question ' Why did you do it ?', it does not give a reason,

INTENTION

§

20-2 I

and the parallel answer for the future ' I'm just going to, that's all ' does not give a basis for the prediction, it merely repeats it. Let us try another method of differentiation. A voluntary action can be commanded. If someone says ' Tremble ' and I tremble I am not obeying him-even if I tremble because he said it in a .terrible voice. To play it as obedience would be a kind of sophisticated joke (characteristic of the Marx Brothers) which might be called ' playing language-games wrong '. Now we can suppose that human actions, which are not distinguished by the way their agent knows them, are or are not subject to command. If they are subject to command they can be distinguished as a separate class ; but the distinction seems to be an idle one, just made for its own sake. Don't say ' But the distinction relates to an obviously useful feature of certain actions, namely that one can get a person to perform them by commanding him ' ; for • usefulness ' is not a concept we can suppose retained if we have done away with ' purpose '. Still, some actions are subject to command, so has not the question ' Why ? ' a place ? ' Why did you do it ? ' ' Because you told me to '. That is an answer, and if some actions were subject to command, the people concerned might have the question whether something was done in obedience to a command or not. But the question ' Why ? ' may here simply be rendered by

Commanded or not commanded ?' This will be a form of the relevant question ' Why ? ' if it is open to the speaker to say

• You commanded it, and I did it, but not commanded ' . •I didn't do it because you told me to '.) But what would be the point of this, taken by itself-i.e. in isolation from a person's

reasons and aims ? For these are excluded ; the question ' Why ? ' is not supposed to have any such application in the case we are imagining. The expression might be only a form of rudeness. Thus the occurrence of other answers to the question ' Why ? ' besides ones like ' I just did ', is essential to the existence of the concept of an intention or voluntary action.

2. I . Ancient and medieval philosophers-or some of them at any rate-regarded it as evident, demonstrable, that human beings must always act with some end in view, and even with some one end in view. The argument for this strikes us as rather

did not. which has plagued us in relation to answers mentioning the past. and if he has a reason or purpose. simply does not arise here. then it is an expression of intention. the intention in question has been of course the intention with which a man does what he does.H INTENTION § 2 I -Z Z strange. Given that it does exist. they pass us by. can occur. So far I have merely said ' If the answer to the question . it means that the concept of voluntary or intentional action would not exist.' But now we can see why some chain must at any rate begin. no need for it to stop at a purpose that looks intrinsically final. As we have seen. the cases where the answer is ' For no particular reason '. then it expresses the intention " and the question of cause versus reason. but their interest is slight. and it must not be supposed that because they can occur that answer would everywhere be intelligible. In fact there appears to be an illicit transition in Aristotle. can surely stop where it stops. and it. I do not of course mean to say that every answer which tells you with what intention a man is doing whatever it is he is doing is a description of some future state of affairs . But there are other expressions of the intention with which a man is doing something : for example. why demand a reason or purpose for it? and why must we at last arrive at some one purpose that has an intrinsic finality about it ? The old arguments were designed to show that the chain could not go on for ever. one and the same for all actions. Can't a man just do what he does. from ' all chains must stop somewhere ' to ' there is somewhere where all chains must stop. when I have spoken of the answer to the question ' Why ? ' as mentioning an intention.2. We must now turn to the close. In all this discussion.! examination of this. or that it could be the only answer ever given. it in turn may just be what he happens to want . if the question ' Why ? " with answers that give reasons for acting. but if a description of some future state of affairs makes sense just by itself as an answer to the question. a . 2. because we are not inclined to think it must even begin. a great deal of the time ? He may or may not have a reason or a purpose . etc. this does not mean that an action cannot be called voluntary or intentional unless the agent has an end in view . Why ? ' is a simple mention of something future.

an answer like ' Resting ' or ' Doing Yoga '. I have said an answer describing something future ' just by itself ' is an expression of the intention with which a person acts. For the moment. which would be a description of what 1 am doing in lying on my bed. but by no means expresses that I am setting up a camera with the intention that Marilyn Monroe shall pass by. That is to say : the future state of affairs mentioned must be such that we can understand the agent's thinking it will or may be brought about by the action about which he is being questioned. and I suppose the answer ' Eclipse in July' could perhaps have been understood as an expression of intention by the Dublin crowd who once assembled to watch an eclipse. this expresses the intention with which 1 cross the road. however. To get my camera '.INTENTION § 22 wider description of what h e i s doing. But does this mean that people must have notions of cause and effect in order to have intentions in acting ? Consider the question ' Why are you going upstairs ? ' answered by . And no kind of filling in that we shall accept without objection would give that answer the role of a statement of intention. and dispersed when Dean Swift sent down his butler with a message to say that by the Dean's orders the eclipse was off. (1 mean e. Because there will be an eclipse in July '. That is just a statement of something future. something like ' For six months before the eclipse that shop window is having a lot of explanatory diagrams and models on display '). as things are. let me concentrate on the simple future answer.g. if you say ' Why are you crossing the road ' and I reply ' I am going to look in that shop window '. someone comes into a room. But some savage might well do something in order to procure an eclipse . For example. needs filling in. On the other hand. My going upstairs is not a cause from which anyone could deduce the effect that I get my camera. would be an expression of intention. sees me lying on a bed and asks ' What are you doing ? ' The answer ' lying on a bed ' would be received with just irritation . Now what is the difference ? Consider this case : ' Why are you crossing the road ?'­ . This answer. And yet isn't it a . That qualification is necessary can be seen in the following instance ' Why are you setting up a camera on this pavement ?' ' Because Marilyn Monroe is going to pass by '.

It is not that going upstairs usually produces the fetching of cameras. if we are to be able to say that we do P so that Q. 2. even if there is a camera upstairs-unless indeed the context includes an order given me. but still I am going upstairs to get it ' I begin to be unintelligible. It is true that. at least.) I shall not try to elaborate my vague and general formula. All that it is necessary to understand is that to say. and on the other hand cases of magical rites. that doesn't mean that his saying he dreamed it does not make sense. But if I say : ' No. even if you do P " or 'but it will happen whether you do P or not' is. if someone says ' But your camera is in the cellar " and I say ' I know. to contradict the intention. there is no way for a person at the top of the house to get the camera . All that I have said. Perhaps we think of a lift which I can work from the top of the house to bring the camera up from the bottom. but I am still going upstairs to get it ' my saying so becomes mysterious . in some way. in one form or another : ' But Q won't happen. cases of scientific knowledge. I do P so that Q '. e Fetch your camera '. all come under this very vague and general formula. in effect.36 INTENTION § 2. . there is a gap to fill up. On the other hand. future state o f affairs which is going 10 be brought about b y my going upstairs ? But who can say that it is going to be brought about ? Only I myself. (If what a man says he dreamed does not make sense. or my own statement e I am going to get my camera '. is e It is not the case that a description of any future state of affairs can be an answer to this question about a present action '. A man's intention in acting is not so private and interior a thing that he has absolute authority in saying what it is-as he has absolute authority in saying what he dreamt. or of a vague idea of great power and authority like Dean Swift's. in this case. In order to make sense of e I do P with a view to Q " we must see how the future state of affairs Q is supposed to be a possible later stage in proceedings of which the action P is an earlier stage. on the one hand. I quite agree. that we must have an idea how a state of affairs Q is a stage in proceedings in which the action P is an earlier stage. For of course it is not necessary to exercise these general notions in order to say .

he is wearing away his shoe-soles. Certain muscles. or the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and a good life for everyone. they are engaged in exterminating the Jews and perhaps plan a world war. he is earning wages. The moving arm is casting a shadow on a rockery where at one place and from one position it produces a curious effect as if a face were looking out of the rockery. comes about by the labours of the good men who get into power because the party chiefs die. our enquiries into the . Certain substances are getting generated in some nerve fibres-substances whose generation in the course of voluntary movement interests physiologists. Someone has found a way of systematically contaminating the source with a deadly cumulative poison whose effects are unnoticeable until they can no longer be cured. of course. the pump makes a series of clicking noises.g.-The man who contaminated the source has calculated that if these people are destroyed some good men will get into power who will govern well. he is supporting a family. that a number of people unknown to these men will receive legacies. are contracting and relaxing. have all sorts of other effects . and he has revealed the calculation. any description of what is going on. he is making a disturbance of the air. Now we ask : What is this man doing ? What is the description of his action ? First. which is in fact true. given that an intentional action occurs ? And let us consider a concrete situation.INTENTION z3 . He is sweating. Further.g. he is generating those substances in his nerve fibres. which are in fact beating out a noticeable rhythm. with Latin names which doctors know. This man's arm is going up and down. up and down. If in fact good government. about which they know nothing. together with the fact about the poison. who are in control of a great state . of course. with their immediate families. The death of the inhabitants of the house will. to the man who is pumping. E. e. However.. with him as subject. The house is regularly inhabited by a small group of party chiefs. or even institute the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and secure a good life for all the people . § Z3 37 Let us ask : is there any description which is the descrip­ A man is tion of an intentional action. then he will have been helping to produce this state of affairs. pumping water into the cistern which supplies the drinking water of a house.

But the descriptions in the questions ' Why are you making that face come and go in the rockery ? " ' Why are you beating out that curious rhythm ? ' will be revealed as descriptions of intentional actions or not by different styles of answer. ' Why are you moving your arm up and down ? '-' I'm pumping '. E.g. that he was contracting those muscles is an inference from his knowledge of anatomy. for which we can readily suppose that the answer to the question ' Why are you X-ing ? ' falls within the range.g. ' Why are you pumping ? '-' To replenish the water supply '. and I do it just for fun '. To polish that lot off '. Why are you generating those substances in your nerve fibres ? ' will in f always be ruled Qut on these lines unless we suppose act that the man has a plan of producing these substances (if it were possible. as the pump does click anyway. while the other would be in the range we have defined. we might suppose he wanted to collect some) and so moves his arm vigorously to generate them. then we can say ' He is replenishing the water- . but also : ' the man is Y-ing '-if that is. ' Why are you beating out that curious rhythm ? '. the description in ' Why are you contracting those muscles ? ' is ruled out if the onlY sort of answer to the question ' Why ? ' displays that the man's knowledge. But there are a large number of X's.-' Oh. in the imagined case. ' Why are you poisoning these people ? '-' If we can get rid of them. 'Why are you pumping the water ? '-' Because it's needed up at the house ' and (sotto voce) . then sometimes it is correct to say not merely : the man is X-ing. If this was the answer. if any. ' Why are you pumping ? '-' I'm pumping the water-supply for the house '. E. the other lot will get in and . nothing falsifying the statement ' He is Y-ing ' can be observed. Let the answer contain a further description Y. And the description in the question . . I found out how to do it. .INTENTION § 23 question ' Why ? ' enable u s to narrow down our consideration of descriptions of what he is doing to a range covering all and only his intentional actions. ' He is X-ing ' is a description of an intentional action if (a) it is true and (b) there is such a thing as an answer in the range I have defined to the question ' Why are you X-ing ? ' That is to say. of which one would contain something signifying that the man notices that he does that. ' Now there is a break in the series of answers that one may get to such a question.

at a certain stage of the proceedings. however. jokingly. And in the same way we may speak of some rather doubtful or remote objective. in ordinary circumstances. I didn't know I was doing that '. the water is pouring out of a hole in a pipe on the way to the cistern. (The qualification is necessary because an intended effect just occasion­ ally comes about by accident). This will appear a tautologous pronouncement . since not enough has gone on for that to be evident . This point however. for we can say that something was falling over but did not fall (since some­ thing stopped it). if it is some process or enterprise which it takes time to complete and of which therefore. of itself be enough to characterise that as an intentional action. For if after his saying . that if he does. if it is cut short at any time.g. be needed for anybody else to be able to say he is Y-ing.g. when this is not happening because. Sometimes. that the same question ' Why ? ' will have application to this action in its turn. he is not. unless indeed. Or rather. ' He is proving Fermat's last theorem ' . or again one might say of a madman ' He is leading his victorious armies ' . E. having so answered ' To replenish the water-supply '. It is easy. we are pleased to say of a man ' He i s doing such-and-such ' when he manifestly i s not. is in no way peculiar to intentional action .g. This is not an empty conclusion : it means that someone who. ' H e i s replenishing the water-supply '. as we can see but he cannot. to exclude these cases from consideration and point out the break between cases where we can say ' He is Y-ing " when he has mentioned Y in answer to the question ' Why are you X-ing ? " and ones where we say rather ' He is . as when we see a man doing things with an array of wires and plugs and so on. is asked ' Why are you replenishing the water-supply ? " must not say e. not A man can be doing something which he nevertheless does do. though in some cases his own statement that he is Y-ing may. Therefore we do not appeal to the presence of intention to justify the description ' He is Y-ing '. To replenish the water-supply ' we can say ' He is replenishing the water-supply '. as we have already determined. ' Oh. then this would. but did not do it. or refuse any but a causal sense of the question.INTENTION � Z3 39 supply ' . this makes nonsense of his answers. we may say that he was doing it. Now that is to say. but there is more to it. e.

' I am going to London in order to make my uncle change his will ' . ' She is going to make tea ' ? Obviously not. for though in the case we have described there is probably a further answer. But the less normal it would be to take the achievement of the objective as a matter of course.g. in order to '. are simply equivalent. ' Why are you replenishing the water-supply ? ' ' To poison the inhabitants ' and he is poisoning the inhabitants. ' Why are you moving your arm up and down ? ' ' To operate the pump '. To a certain extent the three divisions of the subject made in §1. he is getting the Kingdom of Heaven.g. Why are you X-ing ? ' and get the answer ' To Y " or ' I'm Y-ing '. at the moment e. ' I am seeing my dentist '. to put in the good men. So let us stop here and say : are there four actions here. not ' I am making my uncle change is will '. E. ' He is demonstrating in Trafalgar Square ' (either might be said when someone is. Now if all this holds. and he is operating the pump. because we have found four distinct descriptions satisfying < . E.g. other than ' just for fun " all the same this further description (e.e. for they are getting poisoned. Y being such that we can say ' he's Y-ing ' .40 INTENTION § 23 going to Y'. to save the Jews.g. And hence the common use of the present to describe a future action which is by no means just a later stage in activity which has a name as a single whole. E.g. E. And here comes the break .g. travelling in a train). 'Why are you pumping ? ' ' To replenish the water-supply ' and he is replenishing the water­ supply . and then we can ask ' Why are you Y-ing ? ' and perhaps get the answer To Z " and can still say ' He's Z-ing '. the more the objective gets expressed onlY by . ' I am fetching my camera ' and ' in order to fetch my camera ' are interchangeable as answers to the question ' Why ? ' asked when I go upstairs. with X as our starting point ? I mean : We say . where the answers ' I am going to fetch my camera '. he is putting in the good ones. I d o not think i t i s a quite sharp break. is there much to choose between ' She is making tea ' and ' She is putting on the kettle in order to make tea '-i. to get the Kingdom of Heaven on earth) is not such that we can now say : he is saving the Jews. That is to say. what are we to say about all these many descriptions of an intentional action ? Are we to say that there are as many distinct actions as we can generate distinct descriptions.

Before trying to answer this. if he is being improbably confidential .INTENTION § Z 3. an act of laying poison. and on not need not occur in this man. Z 5. pumping can hardly be an act of poisoning. The difference appears to be one of circumstances. But after all we said it was a cumulative poison . replenishing the water supply. But in that case one might say ' His poisoning them was not an action . namely moving his arm up and down. so how can w e call the man's present pumping an intentional act o f poisoning ? Or must we draw the conclusion that he at no time poisoned them. since he was not engaged in poisoning at the times at which they were being poisoned ? We cannot say that since at some time he poisoned them. operating the pump. besides. however. Even if you imagine that pictures of the inhabitants lying dead occur in the man's head. this means that no single act of laying the poison is by itself an act of poisoning . to be answered by specifying all the numerous times when he laid the poison ? them by itself could be called poisoning them .' Is the question ' When But none of exactly did he poison them ?'. for he was perhaps doing nothing relevant at any of the times they were drinking the poison. didn't the other man ' lay ' the poison ? Suppose we ask ' When did our man poison them ? ' One might answer : all the time they got poisoned. and one might try to reply by saying the man poisons the inhabitants if he lays poison and they get poisoned. For in the acts of pumping poisoned water nothing in particular is necessarily going on that might not equally well have been going on if the acts had been acts of pumping non­ poisonous water. there must be actions which we can label ' poisoning them " and in which we can find what it was to poison them. A further difficulty however arises from the fact that the man's intention might not be to poison them but only to earn his pay. as the lawyers would say. It is of course. and please him­ such pictures could also occur in the head of a man who was poisoning them. not of anything that is going then.Z 5 41 our conditions. and poisoning the inhabitants ? Z4. That is to say. we must raise For someone might raise the objection that some difficulties.

In that case. it seems to shew that our criteria are rather good. although he knows concerning an intentional act of his-for it. now if intention is an interior movement. On the other hand. namely replenishing the house water­ supply. And I do not doubt the correctness of the conclusion . The idea that one can determine one's intentions by making such a little speech to oneself is obvious bosh. to say that his act of replenish­ ing the house supply with poisoned water was intentional. it would appear that we can choose to have a certain intention and not another.g. isn't my proposed criterion in a way a . is intentional by our criteria-that it is also an act of replenishing the house water-supply with poisoned water. just by e. I wanted my pay and just did my usual j0b '.INTENTION § 2 S and is asked ' Why did you replenish the house water-supply with poisoned water ? " his reply is. It is really not at all to be wondered at that so very many people have thought of intention as a special interior movement . see ? and it doesn't matter to me who's in it ' does appear to make it very difficult to nnd anything except a man's thoughts-and these are surely interior-to distinguish the inten­ tional poisoning from poisoning knowingly when this was nevertheless not the man's intention. by our criteria. it would be incorrect. but ' I didn't care about that. saying within ourselves : ' What I mean to be doing is earning my living. we really do seem to be in a bit of a difficulty to nnd the intentional act of poisoning those people. But (quite apart from the objections to this idea which we have already considered) the notion of the interior movement tends to have the most unfor­ tunately absurd consequences. I j ust wanted to earn my pay without trouble by doing my usual j ob-I go with the house. not ' To polish them off '. or ' What I mean to be doing is helping those good men into power . and not poisoning the household ' . one may say. which I prefer to think goes on without my intention being in it '. Well. then the thing that marked this man's proceedings as intentional poisoning of those people would just be that this interior movement occurred in him. I withdraw my intention from the act of poisoning the household. supposing that this is what his intentional act is. Nevertheless the genuine case of ' I didn't care tuppence one way or the other for the fact that someone had poisoned the water. For after all we can form inten­ tions .

then. there is a check on his truthfulness in the account we are thinking he would perhaps give . otherwise not. Of course I must mean that the trllth ftd answer is. The difference between the . in the case of the man who didn't care tuppence. but what sort of control of truthful­ ness can be established here ? The answer to this has to be : there can be a certain amount of control of the truthfulness of the answer. hoped that since the poison was laid it would all go off safely. part of the account we imagined him as giving was that he j ust went on doing his usual job. suppose he distracts the attention of one of the inhabitants from some­ thing about the water source that might suggest the truth . All along the line he calculated what looked like landing him personally in least trouble. but (perhaps out of an attachment to • verificationism ') preferred an external answer (actual or hypothetical) which a man can equally make what he likes-at least within the range of moderately plausible answers.INTENTION § 2� 43 criterion by thoughts ? If the answer to the question • Why did you replenish the house supply with poisoned water ? ' is ' To polish them off '. the question • Why did you call him from over there ? ' must have a credible answer other than • to prevent him from seeing' . then by my criterion the action under that description is characterised as intentional. or any answer within the range. and he must not do anything. For example. there is an area in which there is none. or would be. that assists the poisoning and of which he cannot give an acceptable account. Up to a point. It is therefore necessary that it should be his usual job if his answer is to be acceptable . E. That is quite possible. But does this not suppose that the answer is or would be given ? And a man can surely make up the answer that he prefers I So it may appear that I have supplied something j ust like the interior movement. one or the other. out of the usual course of his job. like • I just thought I would '. and a multiplication of such points needing explanation would cast doubt on his claim not to have done anything with a view to facilitating the poisoning.g. but still. and he reckoned that preventing anything from being suspected would do that.-And yet here we might encounter the following explanation : he did not want the enormous trouble that would result from a certain person's noticing . which a man can make what he likes .

is not one that necessarily carries with it any difference in what he overtly does or how he looks.g. I think. There is a point at which only what the man himself says is a sign . with the answer ' to get the pay '­ are unacceptable. he might have to say only that he grunted. On the other hand. it is not an acceptable account if he says ' I wasn't intending to pump poisoned water. Therefore unless he takes steps to cheat his hirer (he might e. and here there is room for much dispute and fine diagnosis of his genuineness. they are further limited by this : he cannot profess not to have had the intention of doing the thing that was a means to an end of his. This is the kind of truth there is in the statement C Only you can know if you had such-and-such an intention or not '. when asked . but he was hired by the poisoner to pump the water. And didn't the intention reside . if. say. put what he mistakenly thought was an antidote into the water). So that while we can find cases where ' only the man himself can say whether he had a certain intention or not . All this. " I am not ashamed of what I did then. serves to explain what Wittgenstein says at §644 of Philosophical Investigations : . The difference in his thought on the subject might only be the difference between the meanings of the grunt that he gives when he grasps that the water is poisoned. so that the forms he adopts for refusing to answer the question ' Why did you pump poisoned water ? ' with an answer in our defined range--e. but of the intention which I had ".g. the case is different. That is to say. and in which he is very glad on realising that they will be poisoned if he co-operates by going on doing his ordinary job. only to pump water and get my hire '. He can say he doesn't care tup­ pence. this was not his normal job. knowing it was poisoned.' Why did you replenish the house supply with poisoned water ? ' he might either reply ' I couldn't care tuppence ' or say ' I was glad to help to polish them off " and if capable of saying what had actually occurred in him at the time as the vehicle of either of these thoughts. but the commission by the acceptance and performance of which he gets the money is-however implicit this is allowed to be-to pump poisoned water. and that he only wants the money .44 INTENTION § 25 cases in which he doesn't care whether the people are actually poisoned or not.

. and so on ? Not if that means that we can see that ' he is operating the pump ' is another . to the memory of ' that time ' . we can epitomize the point by saying ' Roughly speaking. though independent of the following one.' And against the background of the qualifications we have introduced. however. a man intends to do what he does '. but by way of a response (it might also be called an intuition). which goes beyond what happened at that time. §65 9). . on grounds of self-observation. or reaction. Why do I want to tell him about an intention too.INTENTION § Z 5 -z6 also in what I did ? What justifies the shame ? The whole history of the incident. that will not absolve him from guilt of murder I We just are interested in what is true about a man in this kind of way. C of B. etc. in his discussion of ' I was going to ' : . is performing four actions ? Or only one ? The answer that we imagined to the question ' Why ? ' brings it out that the four descriptions form a series. because I want to tell him something about m yself.' (Philosophical Investigations.-Not. It is right to formulate it. ? It is certainly not an ethical or legal interest . who was only doing his usual job. poisons the inhabitants. Let us now return to the question with which we ended §Z 3 : Are we to say that the man who (intentionally) moves his arm. Then is B a description of A. if what he said was true. But of course that is very roughly speaking. The question arises : what can be the interest of the intention of the man we have described. Here again Wittgenstein says something relevant. A-B-C-D. however. replenishes the water supply. in which each description is introduced as dependent on the previous one. z6. Wittgenstein is presumably thinking of a response. we can think of it as a response to our special question ' Why ? '. as an antidote against the absurd thesis which is sometimes main­ tained : that a man's intended action is only described by describ­ ing his objective. I reveal to him something of myself when I tell him what I was going to do. operates the pump. in the context of our interests. as well as telling him what I did ? .

I am only indirectly pressing against the wall. or of one intention-the last term that we have brought in in the series. in these circumstances. in these circumstances. which means that we can speak equally well of jOllr corresponding intentions. When terms are related in this C . in these circumstances. The mark . A. each dependent on wider circumstances. and.6 description of what is here also described by . and each related to the next as description of means to end . also verifies the former.INTENTION § 2. that what verifies the latter. in this case. and so on. But these circumstances need not include any particularly recent action of the man who is said to do A. but when we speak of one intention. as. B. which is pressing against a wall. it is poisoning the household. On the other hand. of this C swallowing up is that it is not wrong to give D as the answer to the question Why ? ' about A . than for A to be B. more circumstances are required for A to be B than for A just to be A. A's being done with B as intention does not mean that D is only indirectly the inten­ tion of A. By making it the last term so far brought in. For moving his arm up and down with his fingers round the pump handle is. we shall find that the only action that B consists in here is A . the last term we give in such a series gives the intention with which the act in each of its other descriptions was done. So there is one action with four descriptions. operating the pump . it is replenishing the house water­ supply . and this intention so to speak swallows up all the preceding intentions with which earlier members of the series were done. C and D (although we made it a cumulative poison. . . And far more circumstances for A to be D. the only distinct action of his that is in question is this one. if I press on something which is pressing on some­ thing . we are speaking of the character of being intentional that belongs to the act in each of the four descriptions . If D is given as the answer to the question ' Why ? ' about A. and. In short. we have given it the character of being the intention (so far discovered) with which the act in its other descriptions was done. Only. B and C can make an appearance in answer to a question ' How ? '. Thus when we speak of four intentions. he is moving his arm up and down '-in such a way that is. if we say there are four actions. we are speaking of intention with which. for present purposes we can suppose that a single pumping is enough to do the trick).

might find this formula and administer it to himself in the present tense at some stage of his activities. And when spontaneous. it is subject to those tests for truthfulness. if he does this. like clicking out the rhythm of God Save the King on the pump. for example.7. the last term of which is. we notice that the question immediately arises : with what intention does he do it ? This question would always arise about anything which was deliberately performed as an ' act of intending '. Is there ever a place for an interior act of intention ? I suppose that the man I imagined. just by being given as the last. the answer to ' Why ? ' asked about this action does not lead to D. It is in fact only if the thought ' I'm only doing my usual job ' is spontaneous rather than deliberate that its occurrence has some face-value relevance to the question what the man's intentions really are. they constitute a series of means. The intention of doing so . which. which yet would take its place in the series if anyone thought of asking the question ' Why ? ' about it. However. as we saw. applied to the same form of words given as an explanation after the event . in the imagined case we did not put in a term ' making the water flow along the pipes '. it is itself a new action. Thus the interior performance has not secured what you might have thought. 7 47 fashion. who said ' I was only doing my usual job '. and given that it survives all the same external tests. if the man is beating out the rhythm of God Save the King in the clicking of the pump. The answer in this case might be ' So that I don't have to consider whose side I am on '. C in it : for example. B. and the mark of this is that if the question ' Why are you moving your arm up and down ? ' receives as answer ' To click out the rhythm of God Save the King '. namely that the man's action in pumping the water is just doing his usual job .6-2. so far treated as end. with which he moves his arm up and down is not ' swallowed up by the intention of D (beating out that rhythm is not how he pumps the water) . Another implication of what I call ' swallowing up ' is that nothing definite has to hold about how many terms we put between A and D . A term falling outside the series A-D may be a term in another series with some of the members A. 1. it comes under the same last deter- .INTENTION § 2.

So perhaps no concrete inferences as to matters of fact which are quite simply testable can be drawn from the detectives' verdicts.) The only new possibility would be one of eliciting some obviously genuine reaction by saying such things as (to give crude examples) : ' Well. Unless indeed we imagine a case where it could be said: he thou ght this was his intention. but it became clear that he was deceived.INTENTION § 2. probing questions may lead a man to pretend something new. For. There need not be any specific history. the atmosphere between him and them. that the man who gives it has ' insight '. and similar things. here ' knows ' only means ' can say '.g. as Wittgenstein put it (Philosophical Investigations. p. (It does not mean that when he says ' This is my intention '. But. or any consequences. in the light of which an outside observer could see the forms of .e. that means only: there comes a point where a man can say . 7 mination : ' In the end only you can know whether that is your intention or not ' . This is my intention '. One may feel that the verdict is right . I. the deaf man who hears dearly what he ought not to-and in life pretences are no doubt discerned by skilled psychological detectives. then you won't be much interested to hear that the poison is old and won't work ' . instead of revealing what was there already. the nuances in relationships with others in the plot that you will expect the man to have later . he is evincing a knowledge available only to him.8) the consequences here are of a diffuse kind. But there comes a point at which the skill of psychological detectives has no criteria for its own success. 1 2. and no one else can con­ tribute anything to settle the matter. This sort of thing is of course a stock way of bringing out pretences. often met with in literature-e. A contemptuous thought might enter a man's mind so that he meant his polite and affectionate behaviour to someone on a particular occasion only ironically. ' The difference of attitude that one has' would be a diffuse consequence . We can imagine an intention which is a purely interior matter nevertheless changing the whole character of certain things. without there being any outward sign of this (for perhaps he did not venture to give any outward sign). after all. or ' Then you won't be claiming a share in a great sum with which someone wishes to reward the conspirators '. or if you want ' consequence ' to mean ' inference '.

it is always possible to find things to despise in people without any very special story issuing in contempt on this occasion . that is. for as far as concerns history. It does not seem to me to matter whether it is incorrect speech or not. I have heard people jeer at the expression • seeing an appearance ' on the grounds that it is incorrect speech. So intention is never a performance in the mind. This had its first application to the position of one's limbs and certain movements. It is not ordinarily possible to find anything that shows one that one's leg is bent.g. we can say : Look. isn't this perhaps what you saw ? and reproduce a visual effect of which he may say : ' Yes. and afterwards he might change his mind. though in some matters a performance in the mind which is seriously meant may make a difference to the correct account of the man's action-e.1 1 I think that these facts ought to make people less contemptuous of phenomen­ alism than it has now been fashionable to be for a good many years . that is. With the exterior senses it is usually possible to do this. or a feeling . I mean that if a man says he saw a man standing in a certain place. It may indeed be that it is because one has sensations that one knows this . it is possible at least to ask whether he misjudged an appearance. and . in embracing someone. for if you describe a performance. or could be. but that does not mean that one knows it by identifying the sensations one has. or felt an insect crawling over him. what I saw. But the matters in question are necessarily ones in which outward acts are ' significant ' in some way. and the same with the sound or the feeling. This shews once more. or heard someone moving about. that you cannot take any performance (even an interior performance) as itself an act of intention . it is not enough that these words should occur to him. 2. He has to mean them. and never turn future occasions into a development of it. the fact remains that one can distinguish between actually seeing a man.INTENTION § 2 7-28 49 affection as ironically meant . words for example may occur in somebody's mind without his meaning them. Let us suppose that the thought in his mind is ' you silly little twit l ' Now here too. the fact that it has taken place is not a proof of intention . and I admit I can't be sure of more than that ' . think of the episode as an odd aberration. We must now look more closely into the formula which has so constantly occurred in this investigation : ' known without observation '. a sound.8. such as the muscular spasm in falling asleep.

or saw.. is enough to justify saying that normally one does not know the position or movement of one's limbs ' by observation '. it is perfectly reasonable to call this : describing or identifying an appearance. My reply is that the topic of an intention may be matter on which there is knowledge or opinion based on observation.:h an occasion without knowing e. however. If a man says that his leg is bent when it is lying straight out. the position of one's limbs it is otherwise than with the external senses.g. but you have spoken of all intentional action as falling under this concept. and it is not by observation that one knows one is doing Z . inferring etc.g. a man. when in fact what was appearing to him was his leg stretched out. however. I have used this formula quite generally. hearsay. that Z is actually taking place. that one paints a wall yellow.�o INTENTION § 28 But with e. assuming its correctness. By the knowledge that a man has of his intentional tbe appearances' being such that one says one is seeing. This consideration. Now it may be e. then it is possible to have the intention of doing Z in doing ABC .g. inference. deserving a fuller discussion . say ABC. now when one does so describe or identify ' what one saw '. and that one can describe or identif ' what one saw ' on sl. one's knowledge is not the knowledge that a man has of his intentional actions. y that one really saw a reflection of oneself or a coat hanging on a hook . In enquiring into intentional action. When knowledge or opinion are present concerning what is the case. it would be incorrect to say that he had mis­ judged an inner kinaesthetic appearance as an appearance of his leg bent. or again matter on which an opinion is held without any foundation at all. or in so far as one is observing. But is it reasonable to say that one ' knows without observation ' that one is painting a wall yellow ? And similarly for all sorts of actions : any actions that is. here. meaning to do so. that are described under any aspect beyond that of bodily movements. (This topic is certainly a difficult one. such a discussion would be out of place). . then doing or causing Z is an intentional action. and the following objection will very likely have occurred to a reader : ' Known without observa­ tion ' may very well be a justifiable formula for knowledge of the position and movements of one's limbs. superstition or anything that knowledge or opinion ever are based on . and if the case is one of knowledge or if the opinion is correct. and what can happen-say Z-if one does certain things.

or ' That always happens when one opens that window at midday if the sun is shining. contrast this case with the following one : I open the window and it focuses a spot of light on the wall. here the description. then must there not be two of two different knowledges of objects of knowledge ? How can one speak exactlY the same thing ? It is not that there are two descriptions of the same thing. bot.INTENTION § 2 8-29 actions I mean the knowledge that one denies having if when asked e.' 2.9.h of which are kr 'lwn. if it is not already plain. and precisely r-ecause in such a case what I say is true-I do open the window. Someone who cannot see me but can see the wall. and that means that the window is getting opened by the move­ ments of the body out of whose mouth those words come. whether it is known by observation or by its being one's intentional action. ' Why are you ringing that bell ? ' one replies ' Good heavens ! I didn't know This is difficult. Or even like this ' Let me see. I have called such a statement knowledge all along . To see this. says ' What are you doing making that light come on the wall ? ' and I say 'Ah yes. o r possibly also the bodily movement . which was . is identical. I was ringing it ! ' Say I go over to the window and open it. as when one knows that something is red and that it is coloured . But I don't say the words like this : ' Let me see. and that the rest is known by observation to be the remIt.g. what is this body bringing about ? Ah yes ! the opening of the window '. one of whi c h I call knowledge of one's intentional action and the other of which I call knowledge by observation of what takes place. The difficulty however is this : What can opening the window be except making such-and-such movements wirh such-and-such a result ? And in that case what can knowing one is opening the window be except knowing that that is taking place ? Now if there are two w'!Ys of knowing here. what are my movements bringing about ? The opening of the window '. opening the window. no. it's opening the window that does it '. I think that it is the difficulty of this question that has led some people to say that what one knows as intentional action i s only the intention. Someone who hears me moving calls out : What are you doing making that noise ? I reply ' Opening the window '.

And I think that this reasoning applies to the effectiveness of any act of will. so the only thing that does happen is my intention.INiENTION § 29 also willed in the intention. This I think was Wittgenstein's thought in the Tractatus when he wrote : ' The world is inde­ pendent of my will ' and ' Even if what we wish were always to happen. of course I haven't any control over that except in an accidental sense. 6. and if what happens coincides with what I ' do ' in the sphere of inten­ tions. then what is there left for it to be but a bombination in a vacuum? I myself formerly. this would only be a grace of fate. Hence Wittgenstein wrote in his notebooks at this time : ' I am completely powerless'. in considering these problems. for the only sense I can give to ' willing ' is that in which I might stare at something and will it to move.g.' (6. That is to say : assuming it not to exist.373. The essential thing is just what has gone on in me. the answer is ' If I will my arm to move in that way. E.374). but it is not actually moving. if I think I am moving my toe. but if they mean ' Will a matchbox to move and it won't '. it won't " and if they mean ' I can move my arm but not the matchbox ' the answer is that I can move the matchbox-nothing easier. for it is not any logical con­ nexion between will and the world that would guarantee this. then I am ' moving my toe ' in a certain sense. But this is nonsense too. we cannot will that. willing it will be ineffectual. That is to say. came out with the formula : I do what happens. Another false avenue of escape is to say that I really ' do ' in the intentional sense whatever I think I am doing. that is just a grace of fate. But that is a mad account . People sometimes say that one can get one's arm to move by an act of will but not a matchbox. and as for the presumed physical connexion. what guarantees that I do form the words that I intend? for the formulation of the words is itself an intentional act. And if the intention has no vehicle that is guaran­ teed. but where is that to be found? I mean : what is its vehicle? Is it formulated in words? And if so. and as for what happens. when the . equally noth­ ing guarantees that my toe moves when I ' move my toe ' . For if nothing guarantees that the window gets opened when I ' opened the window '.

description of what happens is the very thing which I should say I was doing. So without the eyes he knows what he writes . first to the bodily movement. once given that we have knowledge or opinion about the matter in which we perform intentional actions. Someone without eyes may go on writing with a pen that has no more ink in it . and the intention is just a result which I calculate and hope will follow on these movements. our observation is merely an aid. is done without the eyes. A very clear and interesting case of this is that in which I shut my ey es and write something. And what I say I am writing will almost always in fact appear on the paper. then there is no distinction between my doing and the thing's happening. but the eyes help to assure him that what he writes actually gets legibly written. but isn't the role of all our observation­ knowledge in knowing what we are doing like the role of the eyes in producing successful writing ? That is to say. as the eyes are an aid in writing. but the essential thing he does. Before I make an end of raIsIng difficulties. or may not realise he is going over the edge of the paper on to the table or overwriting lines already written . namely to write such-and­ such. But everyone who heard this formula found it extremely paradoxical and obscure. Now here it is clear that my capacity to say what is written is not derived from any observation. In practice of course what I write will very likely not go on being very legible if I don't use my eyes . then perhaps to the contraction of the muscles. In face of this how can I say : J do what happens ? If there are two ways of knowing there must be two different things known. then to the attempt to do the thing. I can say what I am writing. here is where the eyes are useful . which comes right at the beginning. And I think the reason is this : what happens must be given by observation . I will produce an example which shews that it is an error to try to push what is known by being the content of intention back and back . but I have argued that my knowledge of what I do i s not by observ­ ation. It is not the case that I clearly know the movements I make. The only description that I clearly know of what I am doing may be of something that is at a distance from me. 30. Someone might express the view I reject by saying : Consider .

Having raised enough difficulties. So he fixes up a mechanism in which something in motion can be kept level if I hold a handle and execute a pumping movement with my arm and on the downward stroke lower it at the rate at which it would fall. which one does not consider at all. But suppose someone simply wanted to produce the effect that in fact I lowered my arm at the speed at which it would fall-he is a physiologist. The words ' the boat ' express an opinion on an object which I take to be just in front of me . which opinion is accompanied by a desire on my part.e. My example to refute such a view is this. and therefore directly know in In general. I don't consider the movement of my arm at all. Here. 3 I. And this must be the model for analysing every description of an intentional action. as Aristotle says. Now my instruction is : Keep it level. the only part of the sentence which really expresses the known action in this intentional action is ' I am pushing '. and wants to see if I generate anything diff erent in the nerve fibres if I do this. So my keeping the thing level is not at all something which I calculate as the effect of what my own action '. My account of what I am doing is that I am keeping the thing level . is at a distance from the details of one's movements. Imagine raising the following rather curious question : Is there any difference between letting one's arm drop and lowering one's arm at the speed at which it would fall ? Can I deliberately lower my arm at the speed at which it would fall ? I should find it difficult to make that the title under which I acted. and that is verified by the senses. which one completely understands.54 INTENTION § 30-3 I the sentence ' I am pushing the boat out '. I really and immediately my ' knowledge of am doing. one does not deliberate about an acquired skill . The word ' out ' expresses intention with which I am pushing because it expresses an opinion as to an effec t of my pushing in these circumstances. let us try to sketch a solution. the description of what one is doing. i. I am able to give a much more exact account of what I am doing at a distance than of what my arm is doing. it is a matter of observation. and let us first ask : What is the contradictory of a . and with a bit of practice I learn to do so.

You are not replenishing the house water-supply ' stands in the same relation to the description of intentional action ' I am replenishing the house water-supply '. This . Now the statement : ' The water is running out of a pipe round the corner ' stands in the same relation to the statement ' I'm replenishing the house water-supply ' as does ' My teeth are false ' to the order ' Clench your teeth ' . but ' Oh. at least of the sort you mean " but ' Do not clench your teeth '. but an order is not a piece of knowledge. as is clear from the following evidence. since they are false ' to the order ' Clench your teeth '.g. He had. no. for I am going to stop you '. whereupon he took them out. been ' abusive ' at his medical examination. because the water is running out of a hole in the pipe ' ? I suggest that it is not. The examining doctor had told him to clench his teeth . as does the well-founded prediction ' This man isn't going to clench his teeth. to make a hole in the pipe with a pick-axe. ' You aren't replenishing the house water supply. So though the parallelism is interesting and illuminates the periphery of the problem. I'm replenishing the house water-supply ' is not ' You aren't. A certain soldier was court-martialled (or something of the sort) for insubordinate behaviour. returning to the order and the description by the agent of his present intentional action. for you never keep such resolutions ' but ' You won't. consider the following story.g.England ' column. handed them to the doctor and said ' You clench them '. and so the statement (on grounds of observation) . it seems. so the contradiction of . is not going to do any clenching of teeth. you aren't ' said by someone who thereupon sets out e. And similarly. it fails at the centre and leaves that in the darkness that we have found ourselves in. is there not a point at which the parallelism ceases : namely. just where we begin to speak of knowledge ? For we say that the agent's description is a piece of knowledge. To see this.INTENTION § 31 description of one's own intentional action ? Is it ' You aren't. if a person says ' I am going to bed at midnight ' the contradiction of this is not : ' You won't. And just as the contradiction of the order : ' Clench your teeth ' is not ' The man. since there is a hole in the pipe '. which appeared for the pleasure of readers of the New Statesman's . . in fact ' ?-E. But.

if his wife gave it him. . It may be untrue because. we might speak of a mistake (an error of judgment) in constructing the list. For the discrepancy might arise because some of the things were not to be had and if one might have known they were not to be had. and if this and this alone constitutes a mistake.INTENl'ION § 3 2 p. unknown to the man pumping. I have to introduce the qualification : If this and this alone constitutes a mistake. What then is the identical relation to what happens. it was an expression of intention . whereas if the detective's record and what the man actually buys do not agree. it says butter and you have bought margarine '. then the mistake is in the record. it has the role of an order. there was a hole in the pipe round the corner. The case that we now want to consider is that of an agent who says what he is at present doing. which is not shared by the record ? It is precisely this : if the list and the things that the man actually buys do not agree. Now suppose what he says is not true. as when. If I go out in Oxford with a shopping list including < tackle for catching sharks '. Now it is clear that the relation of this list to the things he actually buys is one and the same whether his wife gave him the list or it is his own list . And then again there may be a discrepancy between the list and what the man bought because he changed his mind and decided to buy something else instead. no one will think of it as a mistake in perform­ ance that I fail to come back with it. then the mistake is not in the list but in the man's performance (if his wife were to say : ' Look. something is not the case which would have to be the case in order for his statement to be true . unknown to the agent. he would hardly reply : ' What a mistake I we must put that right ' and alter the word on the list to ' margarine ') . order and the intention. This last discrepancy of course only arises when the descrip­ tion is of a future action. If he made the list itself. Let us consider a man going round a town with a shop­ ping list in his hand. and that there is a different relation when a list is made by a detective following him about. But as I said. this relates to his statement that he is replenishing the water-supply as does the fact that the man has no teeth of his own to the order ' Clench your teeth' . in the . In the case of a discrepancy between the shopping list and what the man buys.

Can it be that there is something that modern philosophy has blankly misunderstood : namely what ancient and medieval philosophers meant by practical knowled ? Certainly in modern ge philosophy we have an incorrigibly contemplative conception of knowledge. For if there are two know ledges-one by observation. the other in intention-then it looks as if there must be two objects of knowledge . If the order is given ' Left turn I ' and the man turns right. 3 3 . and that it is not the same as ignoring. are prior. And here. we do not say : What you said was a mis­ take. but if one says the objects are the same. This I will call the direct falsification of what I say.INTENTION § 3 2. But is there not possible another case in which a man is simply not doing what he says ? As when I say to myself ' Now I press Button A'-pressing Button B-a thing which can certainly happen. one looks hopelessly for the different mode of contemplative knowled in ge acting. reality. But the discrepancy does not impute a fault to the language-but to the event. or disobeying an order. as in that case the order falls to the ground. and dictate what is to be said. or ' practical syllogism '. Knowledge must be something that is judged as such by being in accordance with the facts. The notion of ' practical knowledge ' can only be understood if we first understand ' practical reasoning '. because it was supposed to describe what you did and did not describe it. because it was not in accordance with what you said. but it is not a direct contradiction. ' Prac­ tical reasoning '. It is precisely analogous to obeying an order wrong-and we ought to be struck by the fact that there is such a thing. And this is the explanation of the utter darkness in which we found ourselves. there can be clear signs that this was not an act of disobedi­ ence. But there is a discrepancy between the language and that of which the language is a description. The facts.3 3 that is. disregarding. which means the same . as if there were a very queer and special sort of seeing eye in the middle of the acting. to use Theophrastus' expression again. we may say that i n face of i t his statement falls to the ground. if it is knowledge. the mistake is not one of judgment but of performance. That is. but : What you did was a mistake.

unless they are doubtful. which is supposedly shewn to be true by the premises.�8 INTENTION § 33 thing. . the first premise is given in an imperative form. So it is proved by them. though they could be adapted to the imperative form if we assimilate ' Do I ' to the predicate of a proposition. and an example would be 'All mince pies have suet in them-this is a mince pie-therefore etc. adopting a style of treatment suggested by some modern authors. I have money .' Certainly ethics is of importance to human beings in a way that mince pies are not . Such-and-such will be conducive to not having a car crash. Consider the following : Do everything conducive to not having a car crash. so I ought to give this man some '. But its true character has been obscured. We may note that authors always use the term ' major ' and ' minor ' of the premises of practical syllogism : having regard to the definition of these terms. Ergo : Do such-and-such. but such importance cannot justify us in speaking of a special sort of reasoning. Perhaps such premises never can be certain. one might easily wonder why no one has ever pointed out the mince pie syllogism : the peculiarity of this would be that it was about mince pies. Here the conclusion is entailed by the premises. Everyone takes the practical syllogism to be a proof-granted the premises and saving their inevitable uncertainty or doubtfulness in application-of a conclusion. Thus : ' Everyone with money ought to give to a beggar who asks him . This is so whether Aristotle's own example has been taken : Dry food suits any human Such-and-such food is dry I am human This is a bit of such-and-such food yielding the conclusion This food suits me or whether. It is commonly supposed to be ordinary reasoning leading to such a conclusion as : ' I ought to do such-and-such. we can see that they have no application to Aristotle's practical syllogism.' By ' ordinary reasoning ' I mean the only reasoning ordinarily considered in philosophy : reasoning towards the truth of a proposition. tlus man asking me for money is a beggar . was one of Aristotle's best discoveries. Contemplating the accounts given by modern commentators.

I am indebted for the idea of it. R. driving into the private gateway immedi­ ately on your left and abandoning your car there. For he himself distinguished reasoning by subject matter as scientific and practical. universal. M. when nothing intervenes to prevent him. But this syllog­ ism suffers from the disadvantage that the first. even if there are no impediments. without its following that I can be accused of some kind of inconsistency with what I have decided if I do not thereupon go in and buy it. p. he fails to act on the particular order with which the argument ends. f . apart from the conclusion. Someone professing to accept the opening order and the factual premise in the imperative example must accept its conclusion. The syllogism in the imperative form avoids this disadvantage . to a passage in Mr. perhaps. just as someone believing the pre­ mises in the categorical example must accept its conclusion. that a certain dress in a shop window would suit me very well. The Language o Moral!. that the reasoning does not compel any action . For there are usually a hundred different and incompatible things conducive to not having a car crash . on general grounds about colouring and so on. such as. but the disadvantage. � 5 .INTENTION § 33 59 Both this and the Aristotelian example given before would necessitate the conclusion. It is obvious that I can decide.l which no one could accept for a moment if he thought out what it meant. though it is not entirely his fault. As if one could not reason about some particular non-necessary thing that was going to happen except with a view to action I ' J ohn 1 No author. nothing seems to follow about doing anything. is Aristotle himself. The first example has the advantage of actually being Aristotle's. premise is an insane one. ' Demonstrative ' reasoning was scientific and concerned what is invariable. at all. such as shortage of cash. of course.g. e. however. The vague accounts that I have mentioned can be given a quite sharp sense. but have usually put it rather vaguely. has proposed this syUogism. saying. but Aristotle appears to envisage an action as following. Many authors have pointed this out. Hare's book. and driving into the private gateway immediately on your right and abandon­ ing the car there. so far as its being practical is concerned. that though the conclusion is necessitated. someone professing to accept the premises will be inconsistent if. The cause of this mischief.

Aristotle however liked to stress the similarity between the kinds of reasoning. Let us imitate one of his classroom examples. There are indeed three types of case. though like any other piece of . so to speak.60 INTENTION § 33 will drive from Chartres to Paris at an average of sixty m. on active service. There is a difference of form between reasoning leading to action and reasoning for the truth of a conclusion. But for all that the reasoning is an argument that something is true. 27-8. He also displays practical syllog­ isms so as to make them look as parallel as possible to proof syllogisms. he starts around five. .p. IE/hi(a Nicoma(h8o 1147a. he seems to mean that it is always the same psychical mechanism by which a conclusion is elicited. giving it a plausible modern content : Vitamin X is good for all men over 60 Pigs' tripes are full of vitamin I'm a man over X 60 Here's some pigs' tripes. which are now. In both of these the conclusion is ' said ' by the mind which infers it. Thus we may accept from Aristotle that practical reasoning is essentially concerned with ' what is capable of turning out variously '. so we may suppose the man who has been thinking on these lines to take some of the dish that he sees. that is certainly capable of turning out one way or another.h. Here the conclusion is an action whose point is shewn by the premises. But there is of course no objection to inventing a 'V. When Aristotle says that what happens is the same. theoretical ' argument it could play a part in such a calculation. therefore he will arrive at about six '-this will not be what Aristotle calls a ' demonstration ' because. Paris is sixty miles from Chartres. sayingl that what ' happens ' is the same in both. It is not practical reasoning : it has not the form of a calculation what to do. And there is the practical syllogism proper. There is the theoretical syllogism and also the idle practical syllogism2 which is just a classroom example. without thinking that this subject matter is enough to make reasoning about it practical. if we ask the question what John will do.. MO/II Anima/illm VII. and sometimes speaks of it as an action . Aristotle seldom states the conclusion of a practical syllogism.

We may render it as : (a) So I'll have some or (b) So I'd better have some. would entail the conclusion in the form ' I'd better have some ' quite satisfactorily. not by themselves or by any formal process) but only to not doing certain tl1ings. But what Aristotle meant by practical reasoning certainly in- . We only need to alter the universal premise slightly. to : It is necessary for all men over 60 to eat any food containing Vitamin X that they ever come across which.INTENTION § 33 61 form of words by which he accompanies this action. In short the ' universality ' of Aristotle's universal premise is in the wrong place to yield the conclusion by way of entailment at all. The only objection is that the premise is insane. Now the reason why we cannot extract ' I'd better have some ' from the premises is not at all that we could not in any case construct premises which. with the other premises. Only negative general premises can hope to avoid insanity of this sort. don't lead to any particular actions (at least. or (c) So it'd be a good thing for me to have some. For we could. yield this conclusion. Now these. though at first sight they look roughly similar to the kind of conclusion which commentators usually give : What's here is good for me. But neither are (b) and (c). if assented to. But of course in the sense in which this is entailed by the premises as they intend it to be. this only means : ' What's here is a type of food that is good for me " which is far from meaning that I'd better have some. easily. Now certainly no one could be tempted to think of (a) as a proposition entailed by the premises. even if accepted as practical premises. as would have been the corresponding variant on Aristotle's universal premise : Every human being needs to eat all the dry food he ever sees. which we may call the conclusion in a verbalised form.

can certainly be said to be reasoning.g.62 INTENTION § 3 3-3 4 eluded reasoning that led to action. a useful-suitable-etc. say. saying e. rather alien to us. the mark of this is that the premise refers to something merely as pleasant. if the circumstances don't include something that would make it foolish '. and we should say : isn't it desire in some sense-i.e. so I'll go there ' would seem to be practical reasoning too. would call T€ xvat) there is no general positive rule of the form 'Always do X ' or ' Doing X is always good-required-con­ venient-.) Thus though general considerations. there'll be a strained atmosphere in view of what X has recently said about Y and how Y feels about it-so I'll just ask X '.e. considerations of the form ' Doing such-and-s11ch quite specific things in such-and-such circumstances is always suitable ' are never. outside special arts. since we do not make much distinction between one sort of desire and another. need we confine the term ' practical reasoning ' to pieces of practical reasoning which look very parallel to proof-reason­ ings ? For ' I want a Jersey cow . The point that he is making here is. on the other hand. possible at all for a sane person. in skills or arts-:-what Aristotle 34. if taken strictly. it is hemmed about by saving clauses like . Or again ' So-and-so was very pleasant last time we met. ' So I suppose I'd better have some '. we may ask. like ' Vitamin C is good for people ' (which of course is a matter of medical fact) may easily occur to someone who is considering what he is going to eat. there are good ones in the Hereford market. so I'll pay him a visit '. i. But. doing arithmetic or dancing. not to omissions. however. indeed. And I think it is even safe to say that (except in. Now Aristotle would have remarked that it is mere ' desire ' in a special sense (E1Tt8ufLta) that prompts the action in the last case . it is clear that this is another type of reasoning than reasoning from premises to a conclusion which they prove. Now a man who goes through such considerations as those about Vitamin X and ends up by taking some of the dish that he sees. even if we want to follow Aristotle.-thing ' (where the ' X ' describes some specific action) which a sane person will accept as a starting-point for reasoning out what to do in a particular case. (Unless. Or ' If I invite both X and Y. wanting-that prompts the action in all the cases ? .

rightly or wrongly. which is that. Let us suppose that he is reasonably frank and says he wants to keep his job. For even if a man ' is doing ' what he ' wants " like our imaginary teacher. and • pleasant '. That is to say. " 3 5 . there occur the expressions ' it suits '. occupy his time in ' teaching '. and earn his salary. of course. or cookery. Y and Z ? which are what he is doing. the Euclidean proof.INTENTION § H. it is the question . is too difficult . in any case Euclid starts (he may say) with the unjustified assumption that a certain pair of circles will cut . It then becomes relevant to ask what he does want to do. He will say that it doesn't matter. Why ? ' but with a slightly altered appearance. and is a point insisted on by Aristotle himself: the cipX� (starting point) is 'TO Opf. If a man is asked this question about what he is doing. unless by the termination of the time for which he wants it (which might be the term of his life). or medicine. includes ones that have as large an apparatus as one pleases of generalisations about morals.3 S And ' all cases '. he does not want to impart onlY correct geometrical reasoning. This question ' What do you want ? ' was not a question out of the blue.K'T6v (the thing wanted). that ' with a view to which ' he does it is always beyond the break at which we stopped in § 2. This is so. Pons Asinorum. ' should '. he has never completely attained it. In context. 3 . For example. In four practical syllogisms that Aristotle gives us. With a view to what are you doing X. or methods of getting votes or securing law and order. if he does not want to impart onlY correct geometrical proofs. it is a form of our question . The four universal premises in question are : . and are you going to suggest worries about the axiom of parallels to school children and try to teach them non-Euclidean geometry ? and much else of the sort. the fact that current school geometry text books all give a faulty proof of the theorem about the base angles of an isosceles triangle will not lead a teacher to discard them or to make a point of disabusing his class. All this obscures the essential point. or methods of study. of course. like ' What are the things you want in life ? ' asked in a general way at the fireside. together with the identification of cases.

(Sd) as In it occurs in Aristotle. this is not an ethical passage. that meals ought to be punctual. We notice that this 1 Elhka Nkomachea 1 1 47a 28. we should think of it as it occurs in ordinary language (e. any fair selection of examples. The occurrence of . Aristotle is herel giving us a futile mechanistic theory of how premises work to produce a conclusion : e. the action of tasting it is mechanically produced if there is nothing to stop it. as it has just occurred in this sentence) and not just as it occurs in the examples of ' moral discourse ' given by moral philosophers. that one should (not) be fastidious about one's pleasures. . an instruction to an undercook in a kitchen in a special eventuality. say. that we should (not) see the methods of ' Linguistic Analysis' in Aristotle's philosophy . and it can be presumed that it is because of this feature that Aristotle chose a roughly corresponding Greek word as the word to put into the universal premise of his schematic practical syllogism. wanted.g. should ' in it has no doubt helped the view that the practical syllogism is essentially ethical. that one should brush one's teeth. Case (b) appears to presuppose a situation where one is given this premise-it is. That athletes should keep in training.g. this is sweet ' together. but the view has no plausibility . that chairmen in diSCUSSIons should tactfully suppress irrelevancies. given this curious premise and the information . in the De Anima Aristotle is discussing what sets a human being in physical motion. the fourth from the De Anima . that one should (not) tell ' necessary ' lies. that someone learning arithmetic should practise a certain neatness. pregnant women watch their weight. film stars their publicity.INTENTION § 3� Dry food suits any man [1] should taste everything sweet (c) Anything sweet is pleasant (d) Such a one should do such a thing The first three come from the (a) (b) Nicomachean Ethics. and this universal (d) is just a schema of a universal premise. and Aristotle nowhere suggests that the starting point is anything but something thinking of the word for ' should ' ' ought ' etc. if we care to summon them up. should convince us that ' should' is a rather light word with unlimited contexts of application. that machinery needs lubrication.

{a) is said to prompt the action. . . . . so I shall sign . . and the best way to express this will be to sign. And similarly : ' I admire . becomes the . and of course it is only under this aspect that ' desire ' in the restricted sense (€m8vp. pleasant ' (or some other evaluative term) in all the examples that he gives. But it is misleading to put ' I want ' into a premise if we are giving a formal account of practical reasoning. But we find ' should ' . . why not " I admire . The con­ junction ' so • is not necessarily a mark of calculation. that I am making a return for his pleasantness. . I will visit him ' can occur and so this case assume the form of a calculation. have this reason for the kind act of paying a visit. E. under that description. .g. The answer is that the former is not a piece of reasoning or calculation either. . if what it suggests is e. Of course ' he was pleasant . but if the suggestion is : ' So it will probably be pleasant to see him again. and if that is the thought we can once again speak of practical reasoning. . nor is ' I admire him so much. ' is a case of calculating. ' as in the example ' I want a Jersey cow ' ? The case as I imagined it is surely one of practical reasoning. we need to realise that not everything that I have described as coming in the range of ' reasons for acting ' can have a place as a premise in a practical syllogism. suits ' or . so I shall kill him ' is not a form of reasoning at all . Thus there is nothing necessarily ethical about the word . How can I make a return ? . . If the starting point for a practical syllogism is something wanted. just for that reason it is absurd unless restricted to a particular situation-or unless we are to imagine someone having a sweet tooth to the point of mania.g. The difference is that there is no calculation in these. . at least so far as concerns the remarks made by Aris­ totle who invented the notion. It may be said : ' if " he was very pleasant . Here a return. and it is reasonable to ask why. I shall sign the petition he is sponsoring '. ' He killed my father. To understand this. then why should the first premise not be ' I want . so I shall pay him a visit " then it is . so I shall sign " ? '. so I shall pay him a visit " can be called reasoning. .INTENTION § 3S premise has the universality required to necessitate the conclusion for someone who accepts it . should ' occurring in the universal premise of a practical syllogism. .

Similarly ' Dry food ' (whatever Aristotle meant by that . so I'll go there '. it will at any rate terminate in the conclusion only for someone who wants to eat suitable food. Someone free of any such wish might indeed calculate or reason up to the conclusion. spontaneous. they have good ones in the Hereford market. that he probably wanted to see. and similarly with revenge. which once formed can be made the object of wish . so I'll go there ' was formally misconceived : the practical reasoning should just be given in the form ' They have Jersey cows in the Hereford market. but the question ' What do you want suitable food for ? ' means. the description !/nder which it is aimed at is that under which it is called the object. so I'll do it ' is not a form of practical reasoning either. The role of ' wanting ' in the practical syllo­ gism is quite different from that of a premise. We must always remember that an object is not what what is aimed at is. buy. It is that whatever is described in the proposition that is the starting-point of the argument must be wanted in order for the reasoning to lead to any action.. but leave that out. or steal a Jersey cow. and the man who uses the other takes a bit of the dish that he sees.66 INTENTION § 3S object of wish .g. suits anyone etc. i. In the first case. There is a contrast between the two propositions ' They have some good Jerseys in the Hereford market ' and ' Dry food suits any man '. it sounds an odd dietary theory) . or change it to-' So eating this would be a good idea (if I wanted to eat suitable food). but what is the meaning of ' a return ' ? The primitive. spontaneous. that the man who uses the one sets off for Hereford. though once the concept ' revenge ' exists it can be made the object. as with Hamlet. if anything ' Do give up thinking about food as suitable . ' Roughly speaking we can say that the reasoning leading up to an action would enable us to infer what the man so reasoning wanted-e. Then the form ' I want a Jersey cow. That is to say. there can arise the question ' What do you want a Jersey cow for ? ' . case the form is ' he was nice to me-I will visit him ' . but in the primitive.e. form lies behind the formation of the concept ' return '. supposing that they both occur as practical premises. believing it to be a bit of some kind of dry food. Then ' I want this. so I'll have some of this ' is a piece of reasoning which will go on only in someone who wants to eat suitable food.

or I could hold the moon in the palm of my hand. for we are not here concerned with idle wishing. if only . or I were a millionaire. and i t might be instructive to ask how such a form is identified (e. that in 'A wants X ' ' X ' ranges over all describable objects or states of affairs. while to hope that something will happen that it is in one's power to try to bring about.12 were commensurable. is neither wishing nor hoping nor the feeling of desire. to which a characteristic tone of voice is appropriate . Wanting ' may of course be applied to the prick of desire at the thought or sight of an object. A chief mark of an idle wish is that a man does nothing-whether he could or no-towards the fulfilment of the wish. 3 6. Now where an object which arouses some feeling of longing is some future state of affairs of which there is at least some prospect. and cannot be said to .or otherwise '-as said e. is compatible with one's doing nothing at all towards getting what one wants. the more the thing is envisaged as a likelihood. or Helen were still alive. but it does not concern us here. 'Ah. But wanting. however. even though o ne could do something . the more wishing turns into wanting-if it does not evaporate at the possibility. Such wanting is hope. by someone who prefers people merely to enjoy their food or considers the man hypochondriac. may be barely disting uished from idle wishing . that is. even though a man then does nothing towards getting the object. for example the range is restricted to present or future objects and future states of affairs . as the longing may be called if it is sustained. in a language learnt in use) . The most primitive expression of wishing is e. This is untenable . It is a special form of expression .g.g. or C hope that it will happen'. or the sun would blow up. wanting. The wanting that interests us. in the sense of the prick of desire. though I do none of the things I know I might do towards it. Perhaps the familiar doctrine I have mentioned can be made correct by being restricted to wishing. . is hope of a rather degenerate kind . or Troy had not fallen. . and yet do nothing to bring it about. g. is rather ' hope that it will happen witholll my doing anything towards it ' : a different object from that of the first hope. ! '-if only \. . It is a familiar doctrine that people can want anything .

Thus the possession of sensible discrimination and that of volition are inseparable . with a view to finding out which were the very first things or properties that humans learned to name. might have a child cared for by people whose instructions were to make no sign to the child in dealing with it. . Thus there are two features present in wanting .g.g. we describe the movement of an animal in terms that reach beyond what the animal is now doing. the prime mark of colour-discrimination is doing things with objects-fetching them. but of objects by means of colours . one cannot describe a creature as having the power of sensation without also describing it as doing things in accordance with perceived sensible differences. On the other hand knowledge itself cannot be described independently of volition . it is because that is not so that it is possible to form an epistemology according to which the names of the objects of perception are just given in some kind of ostensive definition. placing them-according to their colours.) The primitive sign of wanting is trying to get : in saying this. movement towards a thing and knowledge (or at least opinion) that the thing is there. The primitive sign of wanting is trying to get. which of course can only be ascribed to creatures endowed with sensation. the ascription of sensible knowledge and of volition go together. the identification served by colour-names is in fact not primarily that of colours. influenced by epistemo­ logists. carrying them. but frequently to utter the names of the objects and properties which they judged to be within its perceptual fields. too. A modern Psammetichus. One idea implicit in phenomenalism has always been that e. And this kind of idea is not dead even though phenomenalism is not fashionable. Thus it is not mere movement or stretching out towards something.68 INTENTION § 36 exist in a man who does nothing towards getting what he wants. but this on the part of a creature that can be said to know the thing. (Naturally this does not mean that every perception must be accompanied by some action . But e. the knowledge of the meaning of colour-words is only a matter of picking out and naming certain perceived differences and similarities between objects. and thus. his trying to get it will be his scratching violently round the edges of the door and snuffling along the bottom of it and so on. When a dog smells a piece of meat that lies the other side of the door.

or a particular woman desired in marriage. however. (Here I depart from Russell in holding that propositions can be variable in truth­ value .' For. not. and so I would substitute the commoner form : It is not for all x not the case that . This raises a difficulty best expressed from the point of view of the theory of descriptions. I should do that in any case. For we cannot render 'j\ wants a cow ' as ' It is not always false of x that x is a cow and A wants x ' . for we can say that the dog knows that there are bones in a bag and is excited and so on. or a wife. A similar difficulty can indeed arise for animals too : we say the cat is waiting for a mouse at a mousehole. Nor can we get out of this difficulty by introducing belief into our analysis and then using what Russell says about belief: namely that 'A believes that a cow is in the garden ' can mean. hence Russell's analysis can be used to dispel the difficulty.' . but suppose there is no mouse ? Here. wanting a cow need not involve a belief ' some cow is. not any particular cow. which is presumed to be on sale in the Hereford market. the same features are present when what is wanted is something that already exists : such as a particular Jersey cow. though it is a great deal more complicated. for our difficulty was a logical one. or that he always gets a bone at this time and so is in a state of excitement and dissatisfaction until he gets one. . it is reasonable enough to introduce belief and say that the cat thinks there is a mouse : I intend such an expression just as it would quite naturally be said.'. . ' It is not always false of x that x is a cow and A believes that x is in the garden ' but 'A believes that it is not always false of x . . And though it seems rather comical to apply Russell's analysis to the ' thoughts ' of a cat. But a man can want a cow. plainly. on other grounds. But in consequence the word ' always ' becomes slightly misleading. . and still less does wanting a wife involve a belief ' some wife of mine is. But when a man wants a wife. We must say : he wants ' It is not always false of x .INTENTION § 36 When we consider human action. about the status of the denoting phrase ' a mouse ' in C the cat is waiting for a mouse " and not one about what may go on in the souls of cats . . there seems to be greater difficulty. ' to become true. And when we say C The dog wants a bone ' there is not much difficulty either . ) . there is not really any objection . .

' . He is likely to be asked what for . we have to speak of an idea. the difficulty here is the general one that arises when the object of wanting is not anything that exists or that the agent supposes to exist. t o which let him reply that he does not want i t for anything. and knowledge. For.g. on possible objects of wanting. and will pursue the matter no further . And our two features become : some kind of action or movement which (the agent at least supposes) is of use towards something. But where the thing wanted is not even supposed to exist. we may say. Let the answer be : 'A Jersey would suit my needs well '. Are there any further restrictions. no further absolute restrictions. The other senses of ' wanting ' which we have noticed are not of any interest in a study of action and intention. would could do with a cow of such-and-such qualities (2) e. and the idea of that thing. that the thing is there. 37. a Jersey. and yet did not dismiss our man as a dull babbling loon. as when it is a future state of affairs. he just wants it. that Aristotle would accept as first premise : the reasoning in his chosen form would run : ' ( I ) Any farmer with a farm like mine Now there is no room for a further question " What do you want . It is likely that the other will then perceive that a philosophical example is all that is in question. rather than of knowledge or opinion. but there are some relative ones. or at least opinion. as I have remarked. then it can be asked ' What do you want a Jersey for ? '. but supposing that he did not realise this. besides the ones we have mentioned. or at least any perhaps attain­ able thing ? It will be instructive to anyone who thinks this to approach someone and say : ' I want a saucer of mud ' or ' I want a twig of mountain ash '.INTENTION § 3 6-3 7 Thus the special problems connected with indefinite descrip­ tions do not turn out to create peculiar difficulties for an account of wanting . the premise now given has characterised the thing wanted as desirable. when the idea of the thing that is (in fact) wanted is expressed in the first premise of a practical syllogism ? There are. what you could do with ' for ? " That is to say. For we spoke of two features present in ' wanting ' : movement towards something.-And it is in fact this or a form of this. But is not anything wantable. if ' There are good Jerseys in the Here­ ford market ' is used as a premise.

fetch them. so there can be no need for me to characterise these objects as somehow desirable . Of course. it is pleasant to have one ' and so on. . Then Aristotle's terms : ' should " ' suits '. characterisation has the consequence that no further questions ' what for ? '. let us say. But cannot a man try to get anything gettable ? He can certainly go after objects that he sees. So a saucer of mud '. But here again there is further characterisation : 'I don't feel comfortable without it . or at least for a time. we may perhaps say : it seems he really wanted that pin. having ' amounts to. it merely so happens that I want them " then this is fair nonsense. the answer to ' What do you want it for ? ' may be ' to carry it about with me '. wanting ' is recognisable as such. if he insists on ' having ' the thing. he may be idiotic. let us suppose we give it or him and see what he does with it. To say ' I merelY want this ' without any characterisation is to deprive the word of sense . perhaps he then vigorously protects them from removal. so when out of the blue someone says ' I want a pin ' and denies wanting itf anything. he smiles and says ' Thank you. relating to the characteristic so occurring in a premise. ' pleasant ' are Such a characterisations of what they apply to as desirable. But then. as a man may want a stick. He takes it. he wanted to own them . and no more ? Now if the reply is : ' Philosophers have taught that anything can be an object of desire . in what sense was it true to say that he wanted a pin ? He used these words. this is already beginning to make sense : these are his possessions. but his . but what reason have we to say he wanted a pin rather than : to see if we would take the trouble to give him one ? It is not a mere matter of what is usual in the way of wants and what is not. we want to know what . if he is careful always to carry the pin in his hand thereafter. It is not at all dear what it meant to say : this man simply wanted a pin. he can say perhaps ' I want Now saying ' I want ' is often a way to be given something .INTENTION § 3 7 71 he not try to find out in what aspect the object desired is desirable ? Does it serve as a symbol ? Is there something delightful about it j> Does the man want to have something to call his own. Then perhaps. the effect of which was that he was given one . and keep them near­ him . My want is gratified '-but what does he do with the pin ? If he puts it down and forgets about it.

We have seen that at least sometimes a description of an object wanted is subject to such a question. for such approbation is in fact irrelevant to the logical features of practical reasoning . if he must die. to spend his last hour exterminating Jews. health is a human good ' (a tautology). This.e. But since wholesome means good for the health. 1 Here the description ' digestible and wholesome ' might seem not to be a pure desirability-characterisation. seem to provide us with suitable material. 3 8 . and as we 1 Elhica Nicomachea. .require any answer. it may seem to play a significant part. this is my last hour. and this has them. the characterisation is adequate for a proper first premise and does not need to be eked out by. One of them selects a site and starts setting up a mortar. (1 am a Nazi. Why kill off the Jewish children ?-It befits a Nazi. then will be why Aristotle's forms of the practical syllogism give us such first premises. it seems necessary to choose an example which is not obscured by the fact that moral approbation on the part of the writer or reader is called into play . here are some Jews. Let us suppose some Nazis caught in a trap in which they are sure to be killed. . such a question about the description does require an answer.) Here we have arrived at a desirability characterisation which makes an end of the questions What for ?' • Aristotle would seem to have held that every action done by a rational agent was capable of having its grounds set forth up to a premise containing a desirability characterisation . They have a compound full of Jewish children near them. and health is by definition the good general state of the physical organism. Why this site ?-Any site with such­ and-such characteristics will do. being pretty well universally execrated. 1 1 4 1 b 1 8. Aristotle gives us a further practical syllogism when he remarks ' a man may know that light meats are digestible and wholesome but not know which meats are light '. i. but if it is evoked. say. Why set up the mortar ?-It is the best way of killing off the Jewish children. In the present state of philosophy. Let us now consider an actual case where a desirability characterisation gives a final answer to the series of ' What for ? ' <)uestions that arise about an action. The Nazis.

or of ways of doing what one wants to do. for no particular reason '. wherever there is a purpose at all. Aristotle's specifications for the action of a rational agent do not cover the case of ' I just did. No one needs to surround the pleasures of food and drink with such explanations. But where this answer is genuine. To depict this pleasure. or perhaps of getting one's own back on the world. . and ' This is the best way t o kill o ff the children ') about which to press the question ' What for ? ' So we may note.INTENTION § 38 H have seen. as we have done. Hobbes1 believed . there is a reasonable ground for this view. One would be asked to give an account making it at least dimly plausible that there was a pleasure here. that this sort of action ' for no particular reason ' exists. VI. wherever there is a calculation of means to ends. contains a descrip­ tion of something wanted . if it really works as a first premise in a bit of ' practical reasoning '. it addresses itself to one of Any premise. But cannot pleasure be taken in atrything? It all seems to depend on how the agent feels about i t l ' But can it be taken in anything ? Imagine saying ' I want a pin ' and when asked why. and there­ fore no intermediate premises (like ' Any site with such-and-such characteristics will be a suitable one for setting up my mortar ' . simply in another's suffering . there is no calculation. Chap. hut he was not so wrong as we are likely to think. or Because of t he ' pleasure of it '. but with the intermediary premises. He was wrong in suggesting that cruelty had to have an end. is wrong. or ' pleasant ' : ' Such-and-such a kind of thing is pleasant • is one of the possible first premises. but that does not shew that the demand for a desirability charac­ terisation. and that here of course there is no desirability characterisation. people evoke notions of power. that there could be no such thing as pleasure in mere cruelty. if he must die. With ' It befits a Nazi. Of course ' fun ' is a desirability characterisation too. saying ' For fun ' . perhaps wrongly. to spend his last hour exterminating Jews ' we have then reached a terminus in enquiring into that particular order of reasons to which Aristotle gave the name ' practical '. I Leviathan Part I. (The question ' Why be a Nazi ? ' is not a continuation of the particular premises. but it does have to have a point. or perhaps of sexual excitement.) this series . Or again : we have reached the prime starting point and can look no further.

and has time for it. The one that does not oppose it says : ' Yes. namely. But there are other ways of taking exception to. as we saw in the ' suitable food ' example. the objector may say. i. Or again the ()bjector may deny that it befits a Nazi as such to exterminate Jews at all. I prefer to leave that out of account. The nrst is to hold the premise false . to sing our songs and to drink the healths of those we love '. nor on account of any fault in his practical calculation. It does indeed befit a Nazi to exterminate Jews. but there is a Nazi sacrament of dying which is what really befits a Nazi if he is going to die.74 INTENTION § 3 8. ' Another says : ' To be sure. the nrst premise. it. it is quite compatible with being a good Nazi to give yourself over to soft and tender thoughts of your home. namely to do what befits a Nazi in the hour of death. . or if it is asked has not the same point. about which ' What do you want that for ? ' does not arise. but at this moment I lose all interest in doing what befits a Nazi '.3 9 the question ' What do you want that for ? ' arises-until at last we reach the desirability characterisation. or its being made the first premise. . it is not quite necessary for him to do it. but so equally does such-and-such : why not do something falling under tbis description instead. he was surely wrong. Nazism does not always require a man to strain to the utmost. it is not as inhuman as that : no. All of these admit the truth of the proposition. even according to him. 39. your family. so we may pass quickly on to other forms of demurrer. I suspect that he thought a man could not Jack this interest except under the influ­ <nee of inordinate passion or through ' boorishness ' (UYPOLKtfl). and your friends. the particular practical syllogism of our original Nazi fails. and all but one oppose the desire of what it mentions. I do not at all mean to suggest that there is no such thing as taking exception to. or arguing against. . or dissenting from. as a dietician might hold false Aristotle's views on dry food.e. that befits a Nazi. But in saying this. Nor am I thinking of moral dissent from it. both these denials would be incorrect. insen'sibility. A (formal) ethical argument against the Nazi might perhaps oppose the notion of ' What a man ought to do '1 to 1 But is it not perfectly possible to say : 'At this moment I lose all interest in <loing what befits a man ' ? If Aristotle thought otherwise. However. And yet another says ' While that does indeed befit a Nazi. though not on account of any falsehood in the premise. If any of these con­ siderations work on him.

But the following (vague) question is often asked in one form or another: if desirability characterisa­ tions are required in the end for purposive action. One can want anything and I happen to want this " and in fact a collector does not talk like that . and inglorious. e. Now all that concerns us here is that ' What's the good of it ? ' is something that can be asked until a desirability characterisation has been reached and made intelligible. and whether there are orders of human goods. or at least (logically) must take a course within a certain permitted range or be ashamed. If then the answer to this question at some stage is ' The good of it is that it's bad " this need not be unintelligible . whether some are greater than others. But when a man aims at health or pleasure. Of course it is merely academic to imagine this . and whether if this is so a man . is something we want to hear the praise of before we can understand it as an object . then must not the ones which relate to human good as such (in contrast with the good of film stars or shopkeepers) be in some obscure way compulsive. and all that is required for our concept of ' wanting ' is that a man should see what he wants under the aspect of some good. Then the good of making evil my good is my intact liberty in the unsubmissiveness of my will. if the man with the moral objection were clever he would adopt one of the three last men­ tioned. As for reasons against a man's making one of them his principal aim . it would be affectation to say . of which the first one would very likely be the best. then the enquiry ' What's the good of it ? ' is not a sensible one. Bonum est multiplex : good is multiform. methods of opposing the hero. Some such idea too lies at the back of the notion that the practical syllogism is ethical. slavish. if believed ? So someone who gets these right must be good . A collection of bits of bone three inches long. ' Evil be thou my good ' is often thought to be senseless in some way.g. if it is a man's object.INTENTION § 39 75 the Nazi's original premise . setting up a position from which it followed incidentally that it did not befit a man to be a Nazi since a man ought not to do what befits a Nazi. no one talks like that except in irritation and to make an end of tedious questioning. one can go on to say 'And what is the good of its being bad ? ' to which the answer might be condemnation of good as impotent.

or that everything wanted must be good. and goodness of one sort or another is ascribed primarily to the objects. . but has a true idea of a kettle (as opposed to wanting a kettle well. But on the other hand again. With ' good ' and ' wanting ' it is the other way round . not j ust of what seems so to the judging mind. Goodness is ascribed to wanting in virtue of the goodness (not the actualisation) of what is wanted . though without his animus. this question would belong to ethics.INTENTION § 39-40 need ever prefer the greater to the lessl. this question belongs to ethics. for of course we are not speaking of the ' I want ' of a child who screams for something) and ' good' can be compared to the conceptual connexion between ' judg­ ment ' and ' truth '. . and good the object of wanting . it does not follow from this either that everything judged must be true. and in virtue of what actually is the case. whereas truth is ascribed immediately to judgments. what the agent wants would have to be characterisable as good by him. I of course deny that this preference can he as such ' required by reason '. Whereas when we are explaining truth as a predicate of judgments. the good 1 Following Hume. But it may still be true that the man who says ' Evil be thou my good ' in the way that we described is committing errors of thought . good ' that has to be introduced in an account of wanting is not that of what is really good but of what the agent conceives to be good . or judgment. or propositions. Truth is the object of judgment. All that I am concerned to argue here is that the fact that some desirability characterisation is required does not have the least tendency to shew that atry is endowed with some kind of necessity in relation to wanting. or having an idea of a true kettle). But there is a certain contrast between these pairs of concepts too. an account of ' wanting ' introduces good as its object. For you cannot explain truth without intro­ ducing as its subject intellect. if there is such a science. and on pain of what. the notion of . or thoughts. truth ' is ascribed to what has the relation. in some relation of which to the things known or judged truth consists . propositions. as we have seen. not to the things. 40. But again. we have to speak of a relation to what is really so. in any sense. The conceptual connexion between ' wanting ' (in the sense which we have isolated. not to the wanting : one wants a good kettle. if we may suppose him not to be impeded by inarticulateness.

• 1 . In consequence there has been a great deal of absurd philosophy hoth about tIlls concept and about matters connected with it. astonishingly. They were saying that something which they thought of as like a particular tickle or itch was quite obviously the point of doing anything whatsoever. propositions.· The ancients seem to have been batHed by it. Aristode's use of an artificial concept of ' choice " where I use ' intention " in describing ' action'. and truth . reduced Aristotle to babble. The bad effects of their epistemology come out most clearly if we consider the striking fact that the concept of pleasure has hardly seemed a problematic one at all to modern philosophers. It is customary nowadays to refute utilitarianism by accusing it of the C naturalistic fallacy '. What ought to rule that philosophy out of consider­ ation at once is the fact that it always proceeds as if C pleasure ' were a quite unproblematic concept. We might adapt a remark of Wittgenstein's about meaning and say ' Pleasure cannot be an impression . it needs a whole enquiry to itself.2 Nor should an unexamined Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume XXVIII. But it shews surprising superficiality both to accept that notion and to treat pleasure as quite gener­ ally the point of doing anything. No doubt it was possible to have this assumption because the notion that pleasure was a particular internal impression was uncritically inherited from the British empiricists. and also of Hume. Any sort of wanting would be an internal impression according to those philosophers. since for good reasons he both wanted pleasure to be identical with and to be different from the activity that it is pleasure in. its difficulty.INTENTION § 40 77 (perhaps falsely) conceived by the agent to characterise the thing must reallY be one of the many forms of good. We have long been familiar with the difficulties surrounding a philosophical elucidation of judgment. until Ryle reintroduced it as a topic a year or two ago. 1 9 H. is linked with the difficulty of this topic. an accusation whose force I doubt. for no impression could have the consequences of pleasure '. The cause of blindness to these problems seems to have been the epistemology characteristic of Locke. In this enquiry I leave the concept C pleasure ' in its obscurity . but I believe that it has not been much noticed in modern philo­ sophy that comparable problems exist in connexion with C want­ ing ' and C good '.

honesty. such as ' People have a duty of paying their employees prompdy '. the chain of ' Why's ' comes to an end with this answer. The fact that a claim that ' it's pleasant ' can be challenged. temperance.78 INTENTION § 40-41 thesis ' pleasure is good ' (whatever that may mean) be ascribed to me. For my present purposes all that is required is that ' It's pleasant ' is an adequate answer to ' What's the good of it ? ' or . I call this unconvincing because human goodness suggests virtues among other things. but has been obscured by the conception of the practical syllogism as of its nature ethical.l The point is very obvious. perhaps. whose ethical notions come from the Torah. which he failed to make his premise : ' White boys ought to give runaway slaves up ' . of its decency as an answer.. . It will have become clear that the practical syllogism as such is not an ethical topic. are survivals from a law conception of ethics. and became generally current through Christianity. but which I believe is not generally current. obviously there can. and what is now called the • moral ' sense of 'ought '. The modem sense of ' moral ' is itself a late derivative from these survivals. and thus as a proof about what one ought to do. The idea that actions which are necessary if one is to conform to justice and the other virtues are requirements of divine law was found among the Stoics. I am not saying that there cannot be any such thing as moral general premises. It will be of interest to an ethicist. and one does not think of choosing means to ends as obviously the whole of courage. and so on. 4 1 . or Huckleberry Finn's conviction.e. as also would be any con­ sideration. if he takes the rather unconvincing line that a good man is by definition just one who aims wisely at good ends. What do you want that for ?' I. 1 It is worth remarking that the concepts of ' duty ' and ' obligation '. belonging properly to ethics. but it is clear that such general premises will only occur as premises of practical reasoning in people who want to do their duty. None of these notions occur in Aristotle. or an explanation asked for (' But what is the pleasure of it? ') is a different point. So what can the practical syllogism have to do with ethics ? It can only come into ethical studies if a correct philosophical psychology is requisite for a philosophical system of ethics : a view which I believe I should maintain if I thought of trying to construct such a system . which somehow naturally culminates in action.

g. so I'll have some ' is.g. and the replenishment of the house water­ supply. • I am human " and ' Lying on a bed is a good way of resting '. this can be produced by applying a certain kind of remedy. For example. an Aris­ totelian doctor wants to reduce a swelling . 42. here is some of that medicine­ give it.INTENTION § 4 1 -42 79 Of course ' I ought to do this. and particularly when the particular units called practical syllogisms by modern commentators. saying e. The mark of practical reasoning is that the thing wanted is at a distance from the immediate action. It is not clear from his text whether he thinks a premise must be before the mind (' contemplated ') in order to be ' used " nor is it of much interest to settle whether he thinks so or not. is at some spatial distance from the act of pumping. so I'll do it ' is not a piece of practical reasoning any more than ' This is nice. and these include reasonings running from an objective through many steps to the performance of a particular action here and now. It has an absurd appearance when practical reasonings. whereas getting in the good government is remote in time from the act of pumping. such-and-such a medicine is that kind of remedy. it would be very rare for a person to go through all the steps of a piece of practical reason­ ing as set out in conformity with Aristotle's models. ' resting ' is merely a wider description of what I am perhaps doing in lying on my bed . But of course ' practical syllogisms t in Greek simply means practical reasonings. this he says will be done by producing a certain condition of the blood . while very little distant in time. and acts done to fulfil moral laws will generally be related to positive precepts in this way. are set out in full. We have so far considered only a particular unit of practical reasoning. E. and the immediate action is calculated as the way of getting or doing or securing the thing wanted. Now it may be at a distance in various ways. when he acts faultily though well-equipped with the relevant general knowledge. Generally speaking. This does occur sometimes. In several places Aristotle discusses them only to point out what a man may be ignorant of. in cases like his ' dry toods ' example : think of a pregnant woman deciding to eat some vitaminous . to which the expression C practical syllogism ' is usually restricted.

Aristotle's ' practical reasoning ' or my order of questions ' Why ?' can be looked at as a device which reveals the order that there is in this chaos. Would not a parallel answer about Smith really be ' breathing steadily ' or perhaps ' lying extended on a bed ' ? Someone who was struck by this might think it remarkable that the same expression ' What is-doing ? • should be understood in such different ways : here is a case of the ' enormously complicated tacit conventions ' that accompany our understanding of ordinary language. both are therefore good (i. might make an enquirer say : ' Description of a human action is something enormously complicated.e. 43 . And ' resting ' is pretty close to lying on a bed . The interest of the account is that it describes an order which is there whenever actions are done with intentions . the same order as I arrived at in discussing what ' the intentional action ' was. as Wittgenstein said in the TractatllJ. if one were to say what is really involved in it-and yet a child can give such a report I ' And similarly for ' preparing a massacre '. such a description as ' paying his gas bill " when all he is doing is handing two bits of paper to a girl. But if Aristotle's account were supposed to describe actual mental processes. when the man was pumping water. In a way. which would be a description of what our Nazi was doing when he was dragging metal objects about or taking ammunition out of a drawer. this will happen. for the starting points for my enquiry were different from Aristotle's. so I'll do this '. if that. with the appropriate answers.80 INTENTION § 42-44 food. the other rich in protein . it would in general be quite absurd. But he has .g. There are three cases to consider. (a) The man has no end in view. Let us now consider someone saying ' If I do this. as is natural for someone writing in a different time. wholesome). for a series of questions ' Why ? ' such as I described. E. I did not realise the identity until I had reached my results . 44. let him be considering two different foods . one is rich in vitamins. my own construction is as artificial as Aristotle's . cannot occur very often. Consider a question ' What is the stove doing ? " with the answer ' Burning well ' and a question ' What is Smith doing ? ' with the answer ' Resting '. this other thing .

although he is now determining which he wants (protein or vitamin let us say). And the explanation . (c) The same man has a choice of different kinds of wholesome dishes whenever he wants to eat. but never takes others. thinking ' if I do this. so I'll have this ' is calcu­ lation with a view to an end-namely. If. still he must choose among them or give up his objective of eating only wholesome food. which before was undetermined. he might say ' Oh. you'll get protein ' and he says : 'All right. this will happen ' he decides to do it. even though both alternatives would have fitted his plan. and if ' this ' is not wanted with a view to any further end. which was not predetermined. he is not ' reasoning with a view to an end ' at all. He could simply not trouble to eat anything. this will be the result. his plan may not determine whether he has sash or casement windows . at least when he comes to it. the completed house . even though it is not the only one that would. Asked why he chose that. or eat some highly unsuitable food instead. This trivial case (c) is an example of what is by far the most common situation for anyone pursuing an objective. but he must decide which kind of window to have. or the house will not get finished. you will get vitamins. that. e. . if of that. Oh. Now 11Jhich he chooses is not determined by his end . he takes it and not any other. And his calculation ' if I choose this. to eat only wholesome food. if that. I just thought I'd have something full of vitamins ' or ' Oh. without abandoning any end. and so determines ' this ' as the result he wants. Now someone says : ' If you have some of this dish. is always confronted with only one wholesome dish. for example . Let some­ one be building a house.INTENTION § 44 81 no practical premise : ' Vitaminous and protein-rich foods are good for a man ' : he just eats what he wants to without consider­ ing such matters. I thought I'd eat some thoroughly unsuitable food ' is an extended form of what we are already acquainted with : ' I just thought I would '. I thought I'd get some protein in me '. Now this is not a case of ' practical reasoning '. and recognizing it as a kind of food that is wholesome. I'll have some of the first one '. and chooses some of them.g. but he is not in the position of the first man . (b) A man who has an end in view. He is choosing an alternative that fits.

82

INTENTION § 4 5

4 5 . We can now consider ' practical knowledge '. Imagine someone directing a project, like the erection of a building which he cannot see and does not get reports on, purely by giving orders. His imagination (evidently a superhuman one) takes the place of the perception that would ordinarily be employed
by the director of such a project. He is not like a man merely considering speculatively how a thing might be done ; such a man can leave many points unsettled, but this man m�st settle every­ thing in a right order. His knowledge of what is done is practical knowledge. But what is this ' knowledge of what is done ' ? First and foremost, he can say what the house is like. But it may be objected that he can only say ' This is what the house is like, if my orders have been obeyed '. But isn't he then like someone saying • This-namely, what my imagination suggests-is what

is the case if what I have imagined is true ' ?
I wrote • I am a fool ' on the blackboard with my eyes shut. Now when I said what I wrote, ought I to have said : this is what I am writing, if my intention is getting executed ; instead of simply : this is what I am writing ? Orders, however, can be disobeyed, and intentions fail to get executed. That intention for example would not have been executed if something had gone wrong with the chalk or the surface, so that the words did not appear. And my knowledge would have been the same even if this had happened. If then my knowledge is independent of what actually happens, how can it be knowledge of what does happen ? Someone might say that it was a funny sort of knowledge that was still knowledge even though what it was knowledge of was not the case I On the other hand Theophrastus' remark holds good : ' the mistake is in the performance, not in the judgment '. Hence we can understand the temptation to make the real object of willing just an idea, like William James. For that certainly comes into being ; or if it does not, then there was no willing and so no problem. But we can in fact produce a case where someone effects something just by saying it is so, thus fufilling the ideal for an act of will as perfectly as possible. This happens if someone admires a possession of mine and I say ' It's

INTENTION § 46 yours l " thereby giving it him. But of course this is possible only because property is conventional.

46. But who says that what is going on is the bUilding of a house, or writing ' I am a fool ' on the blackboard ? We all do, of course, but why do we ? We notice many changes and movements in the world without giving any comparable account of them. The tree waves in the wind ; the movements of its leaves are just as minute as the movement of my hand when I write on a blackboard, but we have no description of a picked-out set of movements or a picked-out appearance of the tree remotely resembling , She wrote I am a fool " on the blackboard '. Of course we have a special interest in human actions : but what is it that we have a special interest in here ? It is not that we have a special interest in the movement of these molecules­ namely, the ones in a human being ; or even in the movements of certain bodies-namely human ones. The description of what we are interested in is a type of description that would not exist if our question ' Why ? ' did not. It is not that certain things, namely the movements of humans, are for some undiscovered reason subject to the question • Why ? ' So too, it is not just that certain appearances of chalk on blackboard are subject to the question ' What does it say ? ' It is of a word or sentence that we ask ' What does it say ? ' ; and the description of something as a word or a sentence at all could not occur prior to the fact that words or sentences have meaning. So the description of something as a human action could not occur prior to the existence of the question ' Why ? ' , simply as a kind of utterance by which we were then obscurely prompted to address the question. This was why I did not attempt in § I 9 to say why certain things should be subject to this question. Why do we say that the movement of the pump handle up and down is part of a process whereby those people cease to move about ? It is part of a causal chain which ends with that household's getting poisoned. But then so is some turn of a wheel of a train by which one of the inhabitants travelled to the house. Why has the movement of the pump handle a more important position than a turn of that wheel ? It is because it plays a part in the way a certain poisonous substance gets into
"

INTENTION

§ 46-47

human organisms, and that a poisonous substance gets into human organisms is the form of description of what happens which here interests us ; and only because it interests us would we even consider reflecting on the role of the wheel's turn in carrying the man to his fate. After all, there must be an infinity of other crossroads besides the death of these people. As Wittgenstein says ' Concepts lead us to make investigations, are the expression of our interest, and direct our interest'

§ 5 70).

(Philosophical Investigations

So the description of something that goes on in the world as ' building a house ' or ' writing a sentence on a blackboard ' is a description employing concepts of human action. Even if writing appeared on a wall as at Belshazzar's feast, or a house rose up not made by men, they would be identified as writing or a house because of their visible likeness to what we produce­ writing and houses.

47. Thus there are many descriptions of happenings which are directly dependent on our possessing the form of description of intentional actions. It is easy not to notice this, because it is perfectly possible for some of these descriptions to be of what i s done unintentionally. For example ' offending someone ' ; one can do this unintentionally, but there would be no such thing if it were never the description of an intentional action. And ' putting up an advertisement upside down ', which would perhaps mostly be unintentional, is a description referring to advertisements, which are essentially intentional ; again, the kind
of action done in ' putting up ' is intentional if not somnambulistic. Or ' going into reverse ', which can be intentional or unintentional, is not a concept that would exist apart from the existence of engines, the description of which brings in intentions . If one simply attends to the fact that many actions can be either inten­ tional or unintentional, it can be quite natural to think that events which are characterisable as intentional or unintentional are a certain natural class,' intentional ' being an extra property which a philosopher must try to describe. In fact the term ' intentional ' has reference to a

form

of

description of events. What is essential to this form is displayed by the results of our enquiries into the question • Why ? ' Events

arranging Telephoning Calling Groping Crouching Greeting Signing. ' Sliding on ice ' is not itself a type of description. which is directly dependent on our possessing . ' Crouching ' will probably be the only one that occasions any doubt. The class of such descriptions which are so dependent is a very large. and note that of these some are and some are not dependent on the existence of this form for their own sense. the left hand one contains descriptions in which a happening may be intentional or unintentional. selling. picking up Switching (on. and the most important. like ' offending someone '. I assume a whole body as subject. but the description only exists because we make switches to be switched on and off. Thus we can speak of the form of description . and of the descriptions which can occur in this form. Both include things that can. Intruding Offending Coming to possess Kicking (and other descriptions connoting characte ri stica l ly animal movement) Abandoning. the right hand one those which can only be voluntary or intentional (except that the first few members could be somnambulistic). signalling Paying. contracting The role of intention in the descriptions in the right hand column will be obvious . A short list of examples of such descriptions should bring this out. The left hand column will strike anyone as a very mixed set.INTENTION § 47 are typically described in this form when ' in order to ' or . and divide the list into two columns . buying Hiring. . like switching on or off.the form of description of intentional actions. off) Placing. intentional actions '. something involv­ ing encounters with artefacts. can of course be effected by an inanimate object . section of those descriptions of things effected by the movements of human beings which go to make up the history of a human being's day or life. dismissing Sending for Marrying. because ' (in one sense) is attached to their descriptions : ' I slid on the ice because I felt cheerful '. holding. and things that cannot. be done by animals . leaving alone Dropping (transitive).

though not if we speak of something as held there by the cleft. To speak of the wind as picking things up and putting them down again is to animalize it in our language. The other descriptions suggest backgrounds in which character­ istic things are done-e. the reactions to an intruder. are quite characteristic of description of intention in acting. which have no language. we certainly ascribe intention to animals. A dog's curled tail might have something stuck in it. These descriptions are all basically at least animal. The reason is precisely that we describe what they do in a manner perfectly characteristic of the use of intention concepts : we describe what f urther they are doing in doing something (the latter description being more immediate. but that of itself would not make us speak of the dog as holding the object with its tail . knowledge and enlarged description. The two features. and what it does if it catches it. and therefore appetitive. Trees. The C charac­ teristically animal movements ' are movements with a normal role in the sensitive. drop their leaves or their fruit (as cows drop calves) . its eye is . but if he has taken between his teeth and kept there some moderate-sized object. and so also if we speak of a cleft in rocks as holding something . but means no more to us than that the leaves or fruit drop off them. life of animals. The enlarged description of what the cat is doing is not all that characterises it as an intention (for enlarged descriptions are possible of any event that has describable effects).86 INTENTION § 47 With what right do I include other members in this list ? They are all descriptions which go beyond physics : one might call them vital descriptions. Just as we naturally say ' The cat thinks there is a mouse coming " so we also naturally ask : Why is the cat crouching and slinking like that ? and give the answer : It's stalking that bird . but to this is added the eat's perception of the bird. this is because they are living organisms (we should never speak of a tap as dropping its drips of water). he is holding it. nearer to the merely physical) : the cat is stalking a bird in crouching and slinking along with its eye fixed on the bird and its whiskers twitching. Still. see. we may say.g. Since I have defined intentional action in terms of language -the special question C Why ? '-it may seem surprising that I should introduce intention-dependent concepts with special reference to their application to animals.

Q�. But even here it might strike someone as curious that in general special proof of intention is not required . . it might be said. This seems surprising because the failure to achieve what or. it is the agent's knowledge of what he is doing that gives the descriptions under which what is going on is the execution of an intention. art. or for health without success. But this might be explained by saying that intention is required (as an extra feature) by the definitions of the concepts employed. and these failures interest us. or for virtue or freedom with complete failure . If we put these considerations together. or even an actual one in the case of marriage.fixed on it. or to any intentions either. 48. for example) that would invalidate a marriage. is no more than a quasi-legal point. and cannot give expression to any knowledge of its own action. though the cat can utter no thoughts. What is necessarily the rare exception is for a man's performance in its more immediate descriptions not to be what he supposes. the failure to execute intentions is necessarily the rare exception. We do this. we can say that where (a) the description of an event is of a type to be formally the description of an executed intention (b) the event is actually the execution of an intention (by our criteria) then the account given by Aquinasl of the nature of practical knowledge holds : Practical knowledge is ' the cause of what it understands '. and in particular the attainment o f something falling under the desirability characterisation in the first premise. 1 . That this is so for descriptions of the type in the right hand column is evident enough. which C is derived from the objects known '. Ia IIae. S. We can now see that a great many of our descriptions of events effected by human beings are f ormallY descriptions of executed intentions. obj. This means more than that practical knowledge is observed to be a necessary condition of the production of various 1 Summa Theologica. Further. It often happens for people to do things for pleasure and perhaps get none or little. for example. it is special proof of lack of it (because one of the parties did not know the nature of the ceremony.e would finally like to achieve i s common . This. unlike C speculative ' knowledge. Surprising as it may seem.

For that philosophy has conferred more terms on ordinary language than any other. though he was helpless when confronted with the task of doing them. is a very improbable one. or that an idea of doing such-and-such in such-and-such ways is such a condition. or. no doubt by inheritance from the Aristote­ lian philosophy. A man has practical knowledge who knows how to do things . When we ordinarily speak of practkal knowledge we have in mind a certain sort of general capacity in a particular field . but if we hear of a capacity. if he is the operator. starting at any letter. E.88 INTENTION § 48 results . practical '. This can seem a mere exIra feature of events whose description would otherwise be the same. for what he effects is formally characterised as subject to our question ' Why ? ' whose application displays the A-D order which we discovered. Normally someone doing or directing anything makes use of his senses. Thus in any operation we really can speak of two . for he might be said to know how to do things if he could give a lecture on it. like my recitation of the alphabet or of bits of it. and ' practical knowledge ' is one of them. It means that without it what happens does not come under the description-execution of intentions­ whose characteristics we have been investigating. it is reasonable to ask what constitutes an exercise of it. this capacity is exercised when I repeat these noises. the whole time : he will not go on to the next order. ' principle '. only if we concentrate on small sections of action and slips which can occur in them.g. or less. in senses more. until he knows that the preceding one has been executed. but that is an insuffi­ cient description. This knowledge is of course always ' speculative ' as opposed to . his senses inform him of what is going on. ' essence ' come readily to mind . for example. In the case of practical knowledge the exercise of the capacity is nothing but the doing or supervising of the operations of which a man has practical knowledge . but this not just the coming about of certain effects. if my knowledge of the alphabet by rote is a capacity.. or of reports given him. Naturally my imaginary case. in which a man directs opera­ tions which he does not see and of which he gets no information. ' Practical knowledge ' is of course a common term of ordinary language. approximating to those of Aristotle himself: ' matter '. ' sub­ stance '.

so that one consents and does not protest or take steps against them : as when someone on the bank pushes a punt out into the river so . there is no reason to think that this notion has application only in such contexts. From another point of view.g. but which happen to one's delight. The distinction between the voluntary and the inten­ tional seems to be as follows : ( I ) Mere physical movements. (z) Something is voluntary though not intentional if it is the ante­ cedently known concomitant result of one's intentional action.g. ' it was a casual movement '. to look at his hands in order to say . for example. so that one could have prevented it if one would have given up the action. without adverting to observation . but imagination could never have authority to tell us what would be the observed result of an experiment. and it is even possible to make this discovery by going through the motions (e. are called voluntary rather than intentional when (a) the answer is e. to whose description our question ' Why ? ' is applicable. The one is practical. ( 3 ) Things may be voluntary which are not one's own doing at all. It might seem that this is a process of empirical discovery . 49. but it is not intentional : one rejects the question ' Why ? ' in its connexion. though he can say what they are if he does consider them. ' Inten­ tional action ' always presupposes what might be called ' know­ ing one's way about ' the matters described in the description under which an action can be called intentional. of tying a knot) in imagination. the other speculative. ' I was fiddling '. but feels ' compelled ' to persist in the intentional actions in spite of that.g. if one regrets them very much. however. Although the term ' practical knowledge ' is most often used in connexion with specialised skills. and the account of exactly what is happening at a given moment (say) to the material one is working on. such things can be called involuntary. Isn't the knowledge so gained observational ? That it is not can be seen if we remember that he does not necessarily have e. and this know­ ledge is exercised in the action and is practical knowledge.INTENTION § 48-49 knowledges-the account that one could give of what one was doing. a man who wanted to say what movements he made in detail might go through the motions in order to find out. or even ' I don't know why ' (b) the movements are not considered by the agent.

but grounds of intention are only reasons for acting. action. What I have said about intention in acting applies also to intention in a proposed action.90 INTENTION § 49.0. But a rejoinder might be ' You didn't mind .' I that one is carried out. indeed. . the applic­ ability of the question ' Why ? ' to a prediction is what marks it out as an expression of intention rather than an estimate of the future or a pure prophecy. Said of a present action.-' Why ' it might be asked. as at (2). at least what's pleasant or interesting about it ? ' is shewn to have no application. What is the man at in doing the thing that he ' just wants to ' ? Whiling away the time ? Seeing if he can finish some futile thing which for a moment's idle occupation he has started-as one might persist in seeing if one could find all the letters of the alphabet on a small bit of news- . and reasons for believing that the thing wanted may happen . and will now return to the topic I left at §4: expression of intention for the future. But its significance appears to change according as it is said of a present. Grounds of hope are mixed of reasons for wanting. intentional actions can also be described as involuntary from another point of view. . and one is pleased. This form of words is of course possible in relation to a present action too. But this does not mean that the question ' Well. it suggests an objection to being troubled with questions : this is just what I am doing. and I am not inter­ ested in having it queried. that's all '. as when one regrets. you didn't shout. did you ? ' (4) Every intentional action is also voluntary. A possible answer to the question ' Why ? ' about an expression of intention regarding a future action is ' I just want to. or try to roll aside. ' having ' to do them. But ' reluctant ' w ould be the more commonly used word. or of a future. . quite generally. though again. I have completed the enquiry into intentional action and intention with which an action is done. I . did you go sliding down the hill into that party of people ? ' to which the answer might be ' I was pushed so that I went sliding down the bank '. But what distinguishes it from a hope ? A hope is possible even concerning one's own future intentional actions : ' I shall be polite to him-I hope '. And.

and to say I just want to. Let us consider C I am going to do it ' said as an expres­ sion of intention. and no one can say : But there is a place for an answer of a certain type. I wanted to. My remarks about C wanting ' an object or a state of affairs at § 3 7 do not necessarily apply to wanting to do something. that's all ' might tell us that had had been the situation when I did something. What am I doing ? Am I e. But if an idea of something I might do inspires me to set out to do it. if this were its function. that's all ' is to explain that that is the situation. any room for more answers from me . that's all • gives you. apart from the fact that I am doing it : what it tells you that C No particular reason ' would not tell you. Asked why. as it were. or to make up my mind to do it. what information • I want to do it. The question is. seeing how long I can keep it up ? It is not just a matter of eccentricity. and • I am not going to do it ' as a belief on . This C I want. We could imagine a special mood of verbs (compare the • optative ' mood in Greek) in which the future tense was used purely to express intention of doing something just because one wants to. It is different with a proposed action. this is • just wanting ' to do it. or keep on reaching up to it. and a C past future '.INTENTION § 5 I-5 1· paper ? C I want to ' is not an explanation of something that a man is doing. Say I notice a spot on the wall-paper and get out of my chair. that's all ' applies only to doing.g. which place requires to be filled. Asked what I am doing I reply C I'm going to see if I can reach it by standing on my toes '. But if I stay there with my finger on the spot. And one can say • I wanted to • of a present action. not with any end in view. C C 5 2. that's all " there does seem to be a gap demanding to be filled. and when asked why. For it is certainly not a report that a feeling of desire is animating me in connexion with what I am doing. in the same mood used in place of ' I wanted to '. But there would be no present of this mood. I say • I want to. and not as anything but itself. that's all ' or • I just had the idea '. Here I may be excluding the idea that there is any further point. I reply C I want to.

unless I am prevented. so to speak. unless I am prevented ' would be absurd. it would be unreasonable later to ask ' Why didn't you get up ? ' I could reply : ' I wasn't talking about a future happening. It would be absurd to say that what he knew was not going to happen was not the very same thing that I was saying was going to happen. and the second an estimate of what is going to happen.INTENTION § 51. unless I am prevented ' ? or at least to say that there is an implicit . well. But there is no way of choosing the right cases . Suppose someone said ' I am going to . or I change my mind ' ? In the small activities of everyday life. a head-on contradiction. . or opposed intentions. and claim that there is no contradiction because one part is just an expression of intention and the otIlt:r judgment on what will actually happen ? The contradiction consists in the fact that if the man does go for a walk. so why do you mention such irre­ levancies ? ' Ought one really always to say ' I am going to . . . . Suppose there are no difficulties about the man's going for a walk ? How can he say both things. and vice versa if he does not go. contradictory hypotheses. when I had said ' I'm just going to get up '. Nor can we say : But in an expression of intention one isn't saying anything is going to happen ! Otherwise. And yet we feel that this is not. evidence-when the ' it ' is one and the same. unless I am prevented ' (an implicit deo volente) in every expres­ sion of intention ? But ' unless I am prevented ' does not normally mean ' uniess I do not do it '. If I say I am going for a walk. One may therefore think : in those cases it would have been more correct for one to add ' unless my memory deceives me ' to the report. someone else may know that this is not going to happen. the first prediction is verified and the second falsified. And yet there are cases in which one's memory deceives one. like that of pairs of con­ tradictory orders. . even though the first part of the sentence is an expression of intention. I am going for a walk-but shall not go for a walk ' is a contradiction of a sort. to say ' I am going to. . for one would actually choose them when for particular reasons there was some doubt about the report. like putting ' unless my memory deceives me ' after every report one gave of what had happened.

unless I do not do it '. But if one is considering the fact that one may not do what one is determined to do. because the verification of predictions awaits the event-and the sun might blow up before the eclipse. . ' • . But this general ground could only lead one to add ' unless my memory deceives me ' to every report.INTENTION § 52 93 we can suppose that a man never makes a confident report when he has any special reason to doubt. So that all one is really saying is : in this case I am not wrong-i. But even if one made a habit of asking Can I say ' I couldn't be wrong ' in that way ? ' before venturing on a report. Peter. unless I am prevented. at least one could not say that this possibility is ruled out for anyone who adopts this habit. In saying ' I am going to '. . We know this because we all are sometimes wrong. . . one could be wrong '­ which does not mean ' one could be wrong in every case '. but this man w ill probably still sometimes be wrong in what he confidently reports. I met so-and-so yesterday ' -one is inclined to say ' I couldn't be wrong '. mostly. It would then be no more than an acknowledgement that ' in every case.e. as can be seen from the case of St. . (Someone may prevent it. then the right thing to say really is ' I am going to do this . when one says ' I am going to ' one may always be prevented but need not consider that . .) This could be said even of an eclipse of the sun . but mostly right. who did not change his mind about denying Christ. one is not prevented. in which one actually is prevented but there was no reason to expect it. It has an analogue in estimates of the future : . one really is saying that such-and-such is going to happen . Similarly. This is going to happen . . Even ' I am going (or not going) to do this. : it happened. . And one is sometimes wrong. unless it doesn't '. which may not be true. And it would be useless to try to attach ' unless I am prevented ' to the right cases. or change my mind ' is not adequate. for people sometimes are wrong about what they are quite certain of. unless it isn't'. . \Vhen one considers a particular case-e.g. and was not prevented from carrying out his resolution not to. one would probably have to concede later that sometimes one had been wrong. and yet did deny him. I am going to . unless I do not ' is not like ' This is the case.

calculated ' Since he says it. thus St. But a man could be as certain as possible that he will break down under torture. however.94 INTENTION § S 2. . It is for this reason that in some cases one can be as certain as possible that one will do something. not he '. and yet intend not to do it. it is true' . So a man hanging by his fingers from a precipice may be as certain as possible that he must let go and fall. we might say : ' In the end his fingers let go. and yet determined not to break down. without changing his mind. And St. Peter might perhaps have. The possibility in this case arises from ignorance as to the way in which the prophecy would be fulfilled . Here. and yet determined not to let go. and yet said ' I will not do it '. and yet do it inten­ tionally. Peter could do what he intended not to.