THE importance of intention-explanations in daily life does not seem open to serious doubt. We explain why Ruth kicked her husband’s foot under the dinner table by saying that her ‘intention’ – or ‘desire’ or ‘wish’ – was to have him be quiet; that Fernanda loosened the runner because she intended to bring the craft’s head nearer the wind; that the government will increase its food subsidies because it intends to keep the prices of foods at pre-war levels. Yet curiously enough, the words ‘intended’, ‘intention’, and ‘intentional’, occur most infrequently in the explanations provided by social scientists. The words are not merely absent; they are conspicuously absent. Instead, even in contexts where intention-explanations would seem to be appropriate, people are referred to as ‘having no desire to do’ what they did, or as ‘planning to achieve’ their objectives without the use of higher tariffs, or as ‘aiming at an increase in the gold reserves’. It is almost as though the employment of the word ‘intention’ were being avoided. Perhaps this is because explanations in terms of purposes and intentions are not useful in the social sciences. Or perhaps it is only that there are reasons for preferring other expressions to ‘intention’. To settle this question we must begin by examining the actual practice of social scientists.