Christopher Shields has a review in NDPR of Gail Fine’s collected essays, Plato on Knowledge and the Forms (see the full review here), which focuses mainly on the paradox about inquiry in the Meno. Shields poses the question: if the paradox involves fallacies, and Plato (as it seems) is aware that it does, then why does Plato bring in the doctrine of recollection to answer it?
Here is Shields’ representation of the paradox:
(1) For all x, either S knows x or not;
(2) If S knows x, S cannot inquire into x;
(3) If S does not know x, then S cannot inquire into x; hence,
(4) For all x, S cannot inquire into x.
If S is any arbitrary inquirer, then for any x unknown by S, S should not waste her time with x.
And here is Shields’ attempt to show that it involves fallacies:
…if (2) has any chance of being true then 'know' must mean something like 'knows all about x', whereas if (3) has a prayer, 'does not know' must mean not 'does not know all about x' but rather 'does not know anything about x' with the result that either (2) is true and (3) is false, or (3) is true and (2) is false, or, if we give both (2) and (3) true readings, then (1) is false and not the instance of the excluded middle it may have first seemed to be.
To simplify: Shields claims that the paradox commits the fallacy of false alternative. It is false that we either know a thing or we fail to know it. Things have parts, and thus we can know them in part and reasonably wish to inquire about the rest.
But this doesn’t really get around the problem, does it? For instance, suppose one holds (as it seems Plato does) that true objects of knowledge cannot have parts?
Or, even if we granted that they did, the problem would break out all over again, as regards each part. You either know that part, or you do not. Assume that you know it. Then you know all about that part. But then you know, in particular, the whole of which it is a part and to which it is connected—and then, once again, there would no need for inquiry. (And if you retort that you knew only a part of that part, an infinite regress results.)
So perhaps Plato reasonably thought that he needed something like the doctrine of recollection to resolve the paradox? Of course, the paradox would still, for all that, be a piece of eristic, insofar as it was proposed with the intent merely to dazzle or stun.