I have described the following work as an essay in metaphysics. Neither in form nor extent does it carry out the idea of a system. Its subject indeed is central enough to justify the exhaustive treatment of every problem. But what I have done is incomplete, and what has been left undone has often been omitted arbitrarily. The book is a more or less desultory handling of perhaps the chief questions in metaphysics.
There were several reasons why I did not attempt a more systematic treatise, and to carry out even what I proposed has proved enough for my powers. I began this book in the autumn of 1887, and, after writing the first two fifths of it in twelve months, then took three years with the remainder. My work has been suspended several times through long intervals of compulsory idleness, and I have been glad to finish it when and how I could. I do not say this to obviate criticism on a book now deliberately published. But, if I had attempted more, I should probably have completed nothing.
And in the main I have accomplished all that lay within my compass. This volume is meant to be a critical discussion of first principles, and its object is to stimulate enquiry and doubt. To originality in any other sense it makes no claim. If the