What is the difference between intention and intension? If one intends to do something is this intent part of the concept of intension?

  • 2
    See Intention : "Intention is an agent's specific purpose in performing an action or series of actions, the end or goal that is aimed at. Outcomes that are not anticipated and not foreseen are known as unintended consequences." See Intension : "In linguistics, logic, philosophy, and other fields, an intension is any property or quality connoted by a word, phrase, or another symbol." They are unrelated concepts ... Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 7:10
  • 4
    +1 This is a very important question for understanding modern philosophy. I remember reading Davidson, who uses both in the same essay without warning, it was very confusing until someone pointed out that there were two different words differentiated only by a single letter. They are indeed quite different concepts.
    – Lucas
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 7:44
  • But would it be possible for the word intent to still be in the "semantic proximity" of intension though? Because I have seen people (mathematicians, rather than philosophers of the mind) acting like so, with extent being cousin of extension also for example. But on the other hand, it could even just be due to their first language being german...
    – mirh
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 18:05

2 Answers 2


The "intension" of a concept is its meaning, whereas the "extension" of the concept is the set of the things that fall under that concept. The most helpful way to see the distinction is with a pair of concepts that have the same extension, but different intensions.

For instance "renate" (="having kidneys") and "cordate" (="having a heart"). Everything that is the one is also the other, so the terms are coextensive. Yet there is still clearly a difference in meaning between them.

"Intentional" on the other hand in these contexts usually means "being about something". (The idea of doing something "intentionally" i.e. on purpose is actually quite different.) Mental states are often intentional, that is to say, usually we are seeing that p, or believing that p, or doubting that p, or whatever. There is some content p to the mental state that it is about.

  • Are there unsolved or unresolved dilemmas related to differences between intensional and intentional? Could intentional that means 'being about something' refer mainly to dynamic processes necessary for the 'something' to occur. Maybe intension refers to 'states'of desciption related to the thing's meaning.Is this valid?
    – user128932
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 0:58
  • Not to my knowledge. The reason for this is that the "intension" and "extension" are going to be properties of concepts or words (or maybe sentences) whereas "intentionality" is going to be a property of mental states or something. It's hard to image what it would mean for a process to be "about" something.
    – user5172
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 11:23
  • I use of the term 'static'property for qualities of 'something' that are not necessarily involved in any necessary processes of the something. And 'dynamic'properties for qualities important to the continued existence of the 'something'. Maybe a dynamic property (a property that requires a certain duration of time and proper çoordination with other traits) could be interpreted as being about the 'something'being considered.
    – user128932
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 3:33
  • There is "intentional" as applied to words/sentences -- e.g., "Barack Obama is the US President." seems to be about Barack Obama. This isn't to contradict anything you've said, just to add that there is a semantic notion of "aboutness" as well. The intension/extension distinction is somewhat similar to the connotation/denotation or sense/reference distinction -- in case that helps the OP. (In formal semantics the "extension" of a term is its referent in the world of evaluation and the "intension" is a function from possible worlds to referents.)
    – Dennis
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 23:44

Intension is a property of an object while intention is a property of a mind.

  • 2
    -1 (for now): this is too brief to be helpful. Could you expand it to spell out what you have in mind? I could imagine ways of fleshing this out that would be accurate, and ways that would be totally wrong.
    – Dennis
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 23:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .