In symbolic logic, such a statement might be represented like this:
S --> M
[If bowl of hot soup (S) then (-->) I will burn my mouth (M).]
One of my favorite classes in college was a course in Symbolic Logic. For most Philosophy majors, this is the one required class that they dread. It is dry, repetitive, and doesn't allow much room for interpretation. This is probably one of the reasons I liked it so much; if you did the work right, you got the right answer. No "Your conclusion overextends Kant's understanding of morality" written in the margins of my papers; no pretentious know-it-all classmate shooting his hand up right at the end of class to ask, "In a sense, aren't we all just derivatives of Plato?" igniting a 20-minute discussion about the reality of our souls. Or something. I don't know- it's been a while.
But it hasn't been a while since I last burned my mouth on soup. In fact I did it yesterday, on a bowl of chickpea-lentil soup from Sweet Green in downtown Boston, and then again today on a homemade butternut squash soup. And if I have a bowl of soup again tomorrow, or even later tonight, I will burn my mouth on it. It's simple, proven logic: IF there is a bowl of delicious hot soup sitting in front of me, THEN I will burn my mouth on it. No room for interpretation.
You'd think I'd learn. Or at least have developed a conditioned response to hot soup like Pavlov's dog salivating to the ring of a bell. One thing I do remember from my college studies is that humans are differentiated from other animals by the ability to reason. We seem to think this is an advancement; that we are higher up on the chain than the rest of the animals, and yet Pavlov's dog would have learned to wait five minutes before sticking his nose into a bowl of piping hot liquid. In this case, I think my reasoning ability is getting in the way. I know the soup is hot; I can see the steam rising from it, and not two minutes before, I was watching it boil in the pot, which means it is not much below 212 degrees Fahrenheit. But at the same time, I know how delicious hot soup is; especially one that begins with the directions, "Cook the sausage until the fat has been rendered; add the onions and garlic." And now I have to apply my reasoning ability to the situation:
IF soup was boiling not two minutes before, THEN it should not be consumed immediately.
IF the making of a soup began with rendering the fat from sausage, THEN it should be consumed immediately.
In symbolic logic, we might represent the statements like this:
B --> ~C (meaning NOT C)
R --> C.
B & R, therefore C & ~C.
So you see? There's the problem. You can't have both C and ~C; both "the soup should be consumed immediately" and "the soup should NOT be consumed immediately." There is a logical contradiction getting in the way of my ability to reason that I should wait before taking that first bite.
On second thought, perhaps I am not as far above Pavlov's dog as I thought; I'm just responding to "delicious soup" rather than "piping hot soup." Maybe one day I'll learn to respond to the correct stimulus. Or in the very least, stop ringing that bell every time my soup is finished.