How many people can know a secret?



I'm not sure if this is a question with a clear answer, and if this is the correct stack to ask it, but is there a limit for how many people can know a secret? An entire goverment can keep a secret, but it's known by hundreds of individuals. Meanwhile, me and my friend can also keep a secret, and it's only known by two people. So, is there a limit? What are the boundaries of a secret? What defines it?

(If I wrote something incorrectly, keep in mind that english is not my first language, please.)


Posted 2016-12-22T23:40:45.363


Question was closed 2016-12-27T14:32:25.533

1IMHO your question belongs to philosophy. Because "secret" must be defined properly before empirical psychological questions can be asked. From my intuition I think that secrets can involve more than two people. While the film The Truman Show is extremely unrealistic, I think that this would be even an example of a secret that the whole world keeps from one man. – viuser – 2016-12-22T23:56:53.813

That is a really good example, indeed. And it makes me think deeper on the meaning of "secret" – None – 2016-12-23T00:20:19.090

How is this not a question about a definition of a term, which can be found in a dictionary:"something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others"? There is no limit on the number of the keepers. What philosophical issue is there beyond that? – Conifold – 2016-12-24T01:22:15.130

Have you read ESiav's answer and it's comments? It's not as simple as you claim to be. That is the definition of the word, what is asked here is the meaning of the concept – None – 2016-12-24T01:48:56.093

Definitions are what describes "meaning of a concept". You do not raise any philosophical issue with the definition, nor a philosophical viewpoint to address it from. "What do you think" types of "questions" that invite personal opinions and musings, which is what all the current answers are, do not fit SE format, see Help Center. There are Philosophy Forums and other forums for that.

– Conifold – 2016-12-24T03:42:39.850

agree with @Conifold – None – 2016-12-24T08:15:23.963

philosophers do talk about definitions, but they will usually do so for reasons other than finding a definition, i guess – None – 2016-12-27T14:33:14.690



A secret might be known by everybody. Even though X is known by everybody, it can still be a secret if everybody thinks that he/she (or maybe a few others) is the only one who knows it and, so, avoids revealing it. It is like everybody knows where a diamond is hidden, but thinks that he is the only one who knows this and wants to find it for himself.


Posted 2016-12-22T23:40:45.363

Reputation: 51

that's a good point – Mr. Kennedy – 2016-12-23T07:30:56.767

That is a really good point of view... – None – 2016-12-23T15:26:50.573

EDIT: After some talks with other people, a friend realized something: the main secret is the location of the diamond. If everyone knows about it, but don´t talk about it, the location is no longer a secret, but who knows about the location is. Everybody knows the location, but no one knows that other people know about the said location too. So it's like a "secondary secret" – None – 2016-12-23T16:22:26.867

would that be an "open secret" ? anyway a secret isn't just left unsaid, but unknown – None – 2016-12-24T08:17:32.370


1 to n - 1 where n is the number of all people. If everyone knows the secret, it's no secret.

Mr. Kennedy

Posted 2016-12-22T23:40:45.363

Reputation: 2 350

yeah this. i keep a secret from someone, it doesn't matter who – None – 2016-12-24T08:16:10.877


If you suppose a world where everyone wants to keep the secret and have the self restrain to do so: yes, the number of people will be population-1. My reasoning is that a secret is some knowledge that must be kept hidden from a non empty set of people.

But the real world is not like that. People may be sworn in a secret but not believe in the reasoning for the secret and reveal it. Or do not have the self control to keep it.

With this in mind we would need complex statistics based in the type of secret and people involved. Then the question should be revisited to:

what is the function that describes the probability of a secret to be kept in relation to the type of secret, types and quantity of people keeping it, types and quantity of people trying to discover it?


Posted 2016-12-22T23:40:45.363

Reputation: 111


It should be clear by now that the proper denotation of the term 'secret' is an open question, such that equivocal usages can lead to different semantic fields being covered.

Lothrop Stoddard

Posted 2016-12-22T23:40:45.363

Reputation: 533

1Yes, indeed. I don't know if i should close this thread, because i don't see a clear answer to this. It is a good discussion topic, but so far, there is nothing leading to a final answer. Should i close this? Or wait a little bit more? – None – 2016-12-23T17:06:13.067

I'd say leave it open for like a day or two more; should be pretty clear by then whether any real progress is being made – Lothrop Stoddard – 2016-12-23T17:07:39.170

I'm tempted to laugh every time I see a tabloid claiming to contain an "untold story." – WGroleau – 2016-12-23T21:32:19.363


For a secret to "stay" as a secret, it can be known only by one person! If two or more people know it, then it is no longer a secret, even if other people don't know it.


Posted 2016-12-22T23:40:45.363

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