I finally finished Whose Justice? Which Rationality? yesterday.
I think I now understand and accept MacIntyre's description of what a tradition is, why we need them, and how some people are unconsciously involved in traditions. I can place myself with a decent degree of specificity in an American Reformed tradition: the evangelical Presbyterian branch of the moderate Calvinist branch of the Augustinian branch of the Christian tradition. The moderate Calvinist branch is, I think, broad enough to be considered part of a tradition of enquiry. Even if it isn't fully expressed in culture-wide social arrangements, it partially orders the lives of a good number of people. And I think MacIntyre has convinced me that there is no transcendent point of rationality as such from which we could fully evaluate different traditions, so I have to keep working in the place where I find myself.
But it's starting to seem that MacIntyre is a bit imprecise in his use of “liberal” and “modern.” He'll critique a specifically modern intellectual project, but he hasn't convinced me that our modern society is organized in such a way that it depends on that project. In other words, he leaves the door open for someone who can describe democratic liberalism as a tradition with reference to the complexities of the interaction between society and intellectual endeavor in the United States. So I'm convinced that certain philosophical projects had to fail due to internal incoherency, but not that American liberalism, broadly construed, has to fail.
From the final chapter, a good point for all students:
“ . . . someone who, not as yet having given their allegience to some coherent tradition of enquiry . . . is confronted by the claims of each of the traditions which we have considered as well as by those of other traditions. How is it rational to respond to them? The initial answer is: that will depend upon who you are and how you understand yourself. This is not the kind of answer which we have been educated to expect in philosophy, but that is because our education in and about philosophy has by and large presupposed what is not in fact true, that there are standards of rationality, adequate for the evaluation of rival answers to such questions, equally available, at least in principle, to all persons, whatever tradition they may happen to find themselves in and whether or not they inhabit any tradition.”
I'd be willing to try to write up a fuller review of the book, with more context, if anyone is confused about what I've said so far and wants to know more.