intention, prior
Intention formed prior to the action that is its condition of satisfaction. The prior intention represents the projected action as a unified whole. Introduced in Searle 1983. See also intentionality, intention-in-action, intentional action.

Some actions are premeditated or involve deliberation; in order to analyze the relations between intentionality and that class of action, Searle introduces the notion of the prior intention, which corresponds, roughly, to the planning or mental projection of an action. If, for Searle, action is "a causal and Intentional transaction between mind and the world" (1983, p. 88), then the prior intention can be said to initiate the transaction by representing, before action is undertaken, the action as a whole. Accordingly, the action as a whole is the condition of satisfaction of the prior intention (1983, p. 93).
The content of the prior intention for action X can be characterized as
<I perform X by way of carrying out this intention>.
Searle describes this content as causally self-referential in that the prior intention refers to itself as the cause of the action, and hence is satisfied only if it is the cause of the action it projects (1983, pp. 95-96). Of course as he points out, not all prior intentions are translated into action; some of them simply are never put into play.
Because the prior intention bears a causal relation to the action as a whole, it transitively bears a causal relation to the intention-in-action, which forms the mental component internal to the action and which in turn causes the bodily movement associated with the action. (It helps, at least provisionally, to think of the prior intention in this instance as a cause separate from, and external to, the action it causes.) Searle depicts this graphically as:

   prior intention -> intention-in-action -> movement
where the arrows signify "causes" (1983, p. 94). As a result of this causal transitivity, the prior intention is satisfied not simply if a given movement is effected or state attained, but only if the movement or state is accompanied by the appropriate intention-in-action -- meaning, roughly, that the movement or state is a volitional one.
As he does with all intentional contents, Searle ascribes to the prior intention a certain direction of fit and direction of causation (1983, p. 97). The direction of fit is characterized as world-to-mind, while the direction of causation is mind-to-world. The world-to-mind direction of fit entails that in order for the prior intention to be successful, conditions in the world must conform to the conditions it specifies. For the prior intention, the relevant conditions in the world encompass the planned action and may extend as well to the final results the action is intended to bring about. The prior intention's mind-to-world direction of causation follows from the fact that the prior intention causes the action and, when relevant, the conditions the action is intended to bring about.
Because the prior intention represents an action as a whole, it may in some cases underspecify the details of an action. This is especially true of complex actions involving multiple subsidiary actions, not all of which may be represented in the prior intention. It is for this reason that Searle can say that a prior intention may be less determinate than an intention-in-action (1983, p. 93).
Although it is fairly uncontroversial to observe that some intentional actions result from premeditation or deliberation, it is more difficult to specify what, if any, continuing relationship such a prior intention may bear to an action in progress. As O'Shaughnessy suggests (1991, pp. 273-274) and Searle grants (1991, p. 298), it is possible that in some extended, complex actions, the prior intention persists even while action is ongoing. In these cases, it would appear that the prior intention is internal to the action after all, particularly if we describe it as regulating the action, as Searle in fact does (1991, p. 298).
Daniel Barbiero