I'm working with what is apparent based on experience--our perception of reality, existence, as it appears to us in life.
None of us requested to be born; we certainly didn't get a say in who our parents would be or the circumstances of our birth. Genetically, we inherit an awful lot of behaviors, traits, physical and mental attributes, and all sorts of other stuff which pre-disposes us to be a certain way.
Free will? I don't remember casting my vote for this!
Sure, you can argue nurture holds as much value as nature, but our parents and the environment in which we are raised is just as much a product of previous generations and "decisions" based on the same predisposed information available to our ancestors.
Did we have any more of a choice than they did?
So our first years are shaped by those raising us and the environment in which we are raised. Who we are and how we act is a product of that situation.
Causation is a fundamental fact of reality as humans perceive it: something happens, causes a reaction, which in turn causes a chain of events determined by causality.
We are the effect of causes accumulated from conception.
Traumatic events further create tendencies as we go through life, inclining us to one thing or the other, or creating patterns of behavior that are a result of said experiences.
Did we choose to be molested or be involved in an accident that leaves us disfigured?
Those are causes which effect our future, but they were also the effects of other causes...
...where does that rabbit hole end?
We cannot undo or redo the things that happen in our lives. The 'would've-could've-should've' mentality is wishful thinking, for we have no power to act upon it--we are utterly helpless in the face of time and what it brings to our lives.
If we could not remember things that happen, there would be no discussion; we wouldn't be able to say, "If I would have done that differently...", because we cannot do anything other than what we have done.
It is a simple fact and one with profound implications.
It is unavoidably possible that every "choice" we make is not a choice at all, but the simple chain of causality stretching back to the beginning of the universe. Nothing can happen other than what has happened, and we have no method to know what will happen.
Suppose we could see the future--would that change this discussion?
Methinks it only makes it worse!
Seeing the future implies the future has already happened--it is there, waiting to be crossed, and we can do nothing to avoid reaching it.
Our memory and abstract thinking complicates our ability to understand free will, and we are schizophrenic in describing our experiences. Sometimes we say, "I chose to do this...", and other times we admit that "shit happens".
Is there some mystical binding of chance and fate?
How can this be reconciled and logically understood? Can it?
How can something be unavoidable and random at the same time?
I love paradoxes; I find them amusing and tragic all at once.
At the heart of what we perceive as our life, our choices, there is a paradox: our "choices" are influenced, and perhaps even decided, by the events that led up to that "choice".
Perhaps it's just a mechanism to make us want to survive, to press on, to fulfill the biological imperatives working deep below the surface.
Why bother to eat, sleep, reproduce, and spread if we have no choice but to do exactly that?
If nothing about what we do is our will, why do we do it?
We are a particular species on a certain planet at a specific time--everything about it screams pre-ordained, but I'm mentally challenged so ignore everything and continuing living and "choosing" to live.