“Not a whiff of free will anywhere.
You bring the discussion to a conclusion with:
the capacity to intentionally influence our world, even if only a little bit…
So as long as it’s “only a little bit” of the Magic Pixie Dust brand of agency, that’s ok? (Sorry, don’t mean to be snarky).”
If you’re correct, of course, you didn’t “mean to be snarky”. You don’t “mean” to be/do anything. There’s “not a whiff” of absolute free will devoid of influences both internal and external, that’s true. Human beings are a process — the convergence of a variety of physical effects produced by hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Pixie dust need not apply. The problem I have with the absolutely no free will argument is that it focuses entirely on all the causes surrounding us, declaring humans to be merely an effect without the potential to cause (or influence) in turn. Every cause produces an effect, of course. But effects inevitably then cause something(s) else. In other words, we aren’t just another effect as those arguing against free will would have it, nor are we just a cause as those arguing for absolute free will would have it. We’re both. Framing free will as an either/or proposition (we got it or we don’t) is to utterly misunderstand its nature. The line between cause and effect is rarely if ever that clear upon close examination, at least in complex systems.
The thought to be snarky may have come to you unbidden without you playing any part in its creation, but once you’re conscious of the snarky thought and start mulling it over, you have a greater share in its ownership than you initially did, just as you would have had you spent months planning a murder (as opposed to a relatively instantaneous crime of passion). The question of what to do with the snarky thought naturally arises from an awareness of it as surely as ice naturally follows when water is exposed to freezing temperatures. There’s nothing magical going on here. The emergence of the choice is a consequence of the natural processes that gave rise to the thought in the first place and enabled an awareness of it afterward. There’s no “Magic Pixie Dust” or tiny homunculus sitting somewhere in the brain guiding the ship required to make it happen.
If a “bit of agency” is an emergent property of consciousness, it does not follow that it must have a single source. Indeed, as I’ve written elsewhere, the idea of a single unitary self is utter nonsense (see Driving Another Nail Into Dualism’s Coffin and Essentialism: The Mother of All Linear Thinking). A degree of choice is merely a natural byproduct of conscious awareness that occurs under the right conditions. Having had a thought come to me and become mindful of that thought, awareness itself necessarily presents me with a choice: discard the idea or pursue it. The unbidden thought caused a bit of agency. It couldn’t have been otherwise.