As far as Popper is concerned, a “Cohen ratio” or a “Cohen Criteria” is a value that is used to determine how reliable a given judgment is. This is a very important value, Popper maintains, and one that we use in determining what constitutes evidence for a proposition. A Cohen Criteria, Popper maintains, is “the value, which can be calculated from data, of the judgement about the credibility of judgments.” Popper goes on to claim, “No judgment of a kind can be reliable, unless it has an empirical basis.” Thus, a Cohen Criteria is a value that we can use to assess the reliability of judgments based on empirical data.
To make his point Popper points out that a Cohen Criteria is not necessarily based on a standard, he calls this a “non-standard” Cohen Ratio or a “non-standard” Cohen. He claims that a non-standard Cohen may not depend at all on the fact of whether the judgment is grounded in a standard or non-standard or empirical data. He further claims that the existence of a non-standard Cohen is irrelevant.
If the existence of a non-standard Cohen is irrelevant then why is Karl Popper so bothered about it? What value does a judge need in order to have an empirical base for the judgment they make? Popper’s answer to this question is that a judge needs a non-standard Cohen for two reasons: to evaluate whether a judgment is supported by an empirical base and to determine whether the judgment is more likely to be influenced by an empirical base than other judgments. If a judge determines that a certain judgment is more likely to be influenced by the presence of a non-standard Cohen then they know that the judgment is more likely to be influenced by an empirical basis.
A second reason why a judge should evaluate a judgment using a non-standard Cohen Ratio is that they want to ensure that they have a reliable judgment when they do not have a trustworthy one. This is because if the judge cannot establish a strong judgment based on a non-standard Cohen then they do not have a reliable judgment. This is because the non-standard Cohen Ratio will allow the judge to determine a judgment is reliable or not reliable based on a variety of grounds, and not just because the judgment has empirical support or does not have empirical support.
If a judge cannot establish a strong judgment based on an empirical base and there are no empirical bases for a judgment then the judge should not use that judgment and that is the point that Karl Popper is trying to make. However, as a critic of this approach to judging, Popper fails to consider why there may not be empirical bases for some judgments. He ignores the fact that some judgments have empirical support will only be considered in relation to another judgment that has empirical support.
If that is the case then it would be a difficult situation for a judge to evaluate a judgment in terms of both the empirical bases. Therefore, even if a judge cannot use a non-standard Cohen Criteria to evaluate a judgment then it would not matter whether they had empirical bases for a judgment or not. They would be justified in considering only certain judgments with empirical bases. The judge would be justified in making a judgment only if they had a reliable judgment, regardless of whether they had empirical bases for that judgment.
Unfortunately, Karl Popper does not seem to understand the difference between a reliable judgment and an unreliable one. As we have noted in previous articles, judges who make judgments that are considered reliable are those who base their judgments on empirical research. Those judgments that are considered unreliable are those who base their judgments on a variety of other sources that do not have empirical bases.