• Latin: intendere, to aim at


An act of the will, tending efficaciously to some good, proposed by the intellect as desirable and attainable. It differs from simple willing of the end, which is to desire an end without being concerned about the means. In making the act of intention the will turns to the end as to the completion of its movement; and since in willing the end efficaciously, it necessarily also wills the means, it follows that the intention of the end and the willing of the means, constitute one and the same act. The reason of this is easy to understand. The means is to the end as the intermediate stage to the completion, e.g., to-will-a-remedy-with-a-view-to-health is to accomplish a single act of will. The intention is actual, virtual, habitual, or interpretative. It is actual when one tends efficaciously to an end with the express advertence of the intellect. It is virtual, when through the residual force of an intention which was once actual with regard to an end, means to that end are chosen and willed. The intention has ceased to be actual, but it leaves behind it a virtue or force. In the virtual intention a chain of representations and dictates is forged, one leading to another, and thus preserving the force of the original actual intention. The intention is habitual, when in the agent is found a disposition to an end, which nevertheless does not influence the act. This happens when the agent previously intended an end and never retracted the intention; but the act he now performs is not elicited in virtue of that intention. The intention is interpretative, when a person does not actually will a certain end, but it is presumed that he would will it, if he adverted to the matter. The intention is the chief among the determinants of the concrete morality of a human act. Hence, an act which is otherwise good, is vitiated, when one’s intention or motive is bad, if the bad intention be the exclusive reason for performing the act. An end which is only venially bad, and which at the same time does not furnish the complete reason for acting, qualifies the act which in other respects was irreproachable, as partly good and partly bad. A good intention can never hallow an action, the content of which is bad. Thus for one to steal in order to assist the poor, is not lawful. The end in view or the intention does not justify the use of bad means.

MLA Citation

  • “intention”. New Catholic Dictionary. 5 October 2010. Web. 20 April 2014. <>