FACT CHECK: Did Plato Say, ‘You Can Discover More About A Person In An Hour Of Play Than In A Year Of Conversation’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook said that ancient Greek philosopher Plato once stated, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Verdict: False

The Daily Caller News Foundation found no record of Plato ever saying or writing the expression.

Fact Check:

Plato, born around 428 B.C., is widely considered a prominent figure in Western philosophy. Many of his works, like “Republic” and “Symposium,” are still cited today.

Yet, while Plato’s works remain eminently quotable, the statement attributed to him the Facebook post appears to be apocryphal. The DCNF searched Plato’s complete works for the expression but found nothing matching or similar.

Two experts also confirmed in emails to the DNCF that the quote does not come from Plato, with Cornell University professor Charles Francis Brittain writing, “As quoted there’s no way that’s by Plato.” (RELATED: Did Plato Say, ‘Be Kind, Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Hard Battle’?)

“I have thoroughly studied all of the dialogues of Plato and he never wrote this,” Sara Ahbel-Rappe, a professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan with expertise in Plato’s work, said in an email to the DCNF.

“Nor had he expressed any interest in ‘discovering more about a person,’ as his interest was always in the truth of views, not in ad hominem queries,” Ahbel-Rappe continued. “He did not share our contemporary cult of personality and was not a strategist or politician.”

An early precursor to the expression appeared in Richard Lingard’s 1696 pamphlet entitled “A Letter of Advice to a Young Gentleman Leaving the University Concerning His Behaviour and Conversation in the World,” according to the website Quote Investigator. In the pamphlet, Lingard wrote, “If you would read a mans (sic) Disposition, see him Game, you will then learn more of him in one hour, than in seven Years Conversation.”

Quote Investigator found other, more concise variations of the saying appearing after that early instance, with the first known attribution to Plato occurring in the 1950s.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter
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