The scholastic doctors used to talk of first intentions and second intentions. First intentions were conceptions obtained by generalizing ordinary experiences. Second intentions were conception[s] obtained by generalizing conceptions themselves considered as objects of logical comparison.
The sort of idea which an icon embodies, if it be such that it can convey any positive information, being applicable to some things but not to others, is called a first intention. The idea embodied by an icon which cannot of itself convey any information, being applicable to everything or to nothing, but which may, nevertheless, be useful in modifying other icons, is called a second intention.
A first intention, so called, is not a direct intention to act, nor even a direct attention to such intention. It is thought in symbols, as for example language; and language is itself thought about thought, this latter thought not being generally direct thought of action.