I'm not really asking for a proof that "nothing exists" is true or false, as I know there exists no such proof. I was just trying to point out the fact that there's no sensible reason to believe "thought happens" is more true than "I exist", which you seem to have implied in your post.
That was the basic problem with Descartes. He thought he found a fundamental assertion which was somehow more "true" than any other assertion. Descartes was simply naive about language, as there are no fundamental assertions of any kind. If there were, people would never be able to learn to speak.
I don't think I can prove anything except in the context of formal mathematics.
Not quite. If you accept the rules which allow for the existence of proofs in math, you must accept the consequence that those rules may be applied to other systems of thought (eg. boolean logic, scientific languages, etc.)
If, on the other hand, you require proofs to refer to anything other than the system (or context) in which they were produced, then not even math can be used to prove anything.
maybe I could convince at least someone that "nothing happens" is necessarily false.
You can always convince someone who already agrees with you that "nothing happens" is false, but that amounts to very little.
Or maybe I could just convince myself.
Exactly how does one convince himself? Do you take two personalities and start a philosophical discussion between them? (just kidding)
There's no such thing as "convincing myself". By the time you set out to convince yourself, you already are convinced. "Something" convinced you, just like "something" convinced you that "I exist" or "thought happens" are true, and "nothing exists" is false.
To show that "nothing happens" is false, it is sufficient to produce a single counterexample. A counterexample would be something that happens. I know from direct personal experience that thought happens. QED
Nope. I could give you a hard time on that one too.
Now, you tacked on a baffling parenthetical assertion:
"(if "thought" is mutually exclusive with "nothing" then the two sentences can't possibly be true at the same time)"
Your premise states that "'thought' is mutually exclusive with 'nothing'". That is hard for me to swallow.
It wasn't a premise as I preceded it with "if". If A then B, that's all I said. I didn't assert that A is true.
Thought and nothing are concepts of a different type.
Are they? Says who? I preceded my assertion with "if", but you seem bold enough to assert that you know what "thought" is...
Similarly, I can have thought and nothing present or absent ...
Sure, but first you have to prove you can think without a brain, as "brain" is often perceived as being mutually exclusive with "nothing" (again, notice I'm not claiming I know what "brain" is, just pointing out a linguistic detail)
1) The astronauts may have left a box with nothing in it on the moon. In that vicinity, there is no thought and nothing in the box.
Exactly how do you know there is no thought? How does one go about proving the absence of it?
2) While they placed the box there, the astronauts were thinking, so there was thought and still nothing in the box.
I could just as well say you are thinking about the contents of the box, therefore the box is not really "empty" as it contains your awareness of its inside. Something like that. You get the idea.
Thanks for the fun