No one who has to live amongst men should absolutely discard any person who has his due place in the order of nature, even though he is very wicked or contemptible or ridiculous. He must accept him as an unalterable fact — unalterable, because the necessary outcome of an eternal, fundamental principle; and in bad cases he should remember the words of Mephistopheles: es muss auch solche Käuze geben — there must be fools and rogues in the world. If he acts otherwise, he will be committing an injustice, and giving a challenge of life and death to the man he discards. No one can alter his own peculiar individuality, his moral character, his intellectual capacity, his temperament or physique; and if we go so far as to condemn a man from every point of view, there will be nothing left him but to engage us in deadly conflict; for we are practically allowing him the right to exist only on condition that he becomes another man — which is impossible; his nature forbids it.One question I have is about what sense it makes to be offering practical advice if our individual characters are as unalterable as Schopenhauer claims. (On a related note, Tommi comments here.) Of course, a determinist can say that such advice can cause others (readers) to act thus-and-such, and so perhaps there's not that big of a problem. If the advice works, it is because it works upon a pre-existing character that is receptive to such advice. (And perhaps those who are "beyond reach" would quickly lose interest with Schopenhauer's advice, or even despise it?) I've only glanced at Schopenhauer's discussion of freedom of the will and his endorsement of a Kantian conception of moral freedom as transcendental--but I've yet to read closely enough to make sense of this. (Help if you can!)
He goes on about patience thus:
The art of putting up with people may be learned by practicing patience on inanimate objects, which, in virtue of some mechanical or general physical necessity, oppose a stubborn resistance to our freedom of action — a form of patience which is required every day. The patience thus gained may be applied to our dealings with men, by accustoming ourselves to regard their opposition, wherever we encounter it, as the inevitable outcome of their nature, which sets itself up against us in virtue of the same rigid law of necessity as governs the resistance of inanimate objects. To become indignant at their conduct is as foolish as to be angry with a stone because it rolls into your path. And with many people the wisest thing you can do, is to resolve to make use of those whom you cannot alter.Not surprisingly, this is similar to things said about patience by the Buddhist Shantideva, e.g. "22. I am not angered at bile and the like even though they cause great suffering. Why be angry at those who have minds? They too are impelled by conditions [causes]."
But later, Schopenhauer says:
He who criticises others, works at the reformation of himself. Those who form the secret habit of scrutinizing other people’s general behavior, and passing severe judgment upon what they do and leave undone, thereby improve themselves, and work out their own perfection: for they will have sufficient sense of justice, or at any rate enough pride and vanity, to avoid in their own case that which they condemn so harshly elsewhere. But tolerant people are just the opposite, and claim for themselves the same indulgence that they extend to others...The patience of "live and let live" would seem to be inconsistent with this, especially if one thinks of the patience Schopenhauer recommends as a form of tolerance. But it seems important that Schopenhauer characterizes this criticism as a "secret habit" and thus not criticism that is offered to the offending party. (There are other places in Chapter 3 of Counsels and Maxims where he emphasizes the prudence of being silent, of not sharing thoughts and judgments that are bound to offend to no fruitful end, and so forth.)
So, on the one hand, we have the deterministic idea that we should be patient with others because impatience, anger, open condemnation, and the like will be unlikely to have any good effect on the "unalterable character" of the person who is testing our patience (as we say). Better, he suggests at one point, just to be polite (and, to the extent possible, to avoid the company of blockheads altogether). But, on the other hand, we should not, in our patience, fail to judge the characters of others as they are (to call the coward and the blockhead, etc., what they are). However, we should in general keep those judgments to ourselves. I wonder if that goes for the determinism and pessimism, too, since as I suggested when reflecting on Strawson, it might seem insulting (condescending) to express that position to the offending person. (Is the truth of determinism--whatever exactly it is--something we thus must pass over in silence--not because it cannot be expressed, but rather because it does not good in our personal interactions to express it?)
There's something to the idea that it is absurd to expect others to be something (or someone) that they aren't, and to the idea that patience should be distinguished from uncritical indulgence (though I would say the same of tolerance). But I think what puzzles me about what Schopenhauer is doing is that there must be some kind of wiggle room in our allegedly "unalterable character" in order for all of this to get off the ground as advice. Of course, one might reject "ought implies can," and hold that it's still good advice--or the right kind of advice--even if some are incapable of following it. And perhaps the advice is to serve as a kind of trigger for those who are capable of following it, i.e. those who have it in their character to act with greater patience if given the right kinds of reasons and reminders. Is that how this is supposed to work?
I'm just trying to think out loud, as it were, about all of this. Bear with me.