What are intentions?

In L. Nadel & W. Sinnott-Armstrong (eds.), Conscious Will and Responsibility. A tribute to Benjamin Libet. Oxford University Press. 70--84 (2010)
Abstract
The concept of intention can do useful work in psychological theory. Many authors have insisted on a qualitative difference between prospective and intentions regarding their type of content, with prospective intentions generally being more abstract than immediate intentions. However, we suggest that the main basis of this distinction is temporal: prospective intentions necessarily occur before immediate intention and before action itself, and often long before them. In contrast, immediate intentions occur in the specific context of the action itself. Yet both types of intention share a common purpose,namely that of generating the specific information required to transform an abstract representation of a goal-state into a concrete episode of instrumental action directed towards that goal. To this extent, the content of a prospective and of an immediate intention can actually be quite similar. The main distinction between prospective and immediate intentions becomes one of when, i.e., how early on, the episodic details of an action are planned. We propose that the conscious experience associated with intentional action comes from this process of fleshing out intentions with episodic details
Keywords Prospective intention  immediate intention  intention awareness  mental time travel
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