The purpose of this article is to show how William James's thought can help to construct a critical approach to the conceptualization of unexpected destructive events and suggest modes of conceptualization that reduce social injustice. I draw on several interrelated themes in James's thought, including, but not limited to: metaphysical and moral relationalism, the tragedy of choice, and the psychology of selective attention (with particular emphasis on its consequences for ethical pluralism). Specifically, I argue that James provides resources for mounting a criticism of a kind of essentialist thinking about unexpected events; for showing how this essentialism can create social injustice by obfuscating social choices and causing marginalized groups to bear a disproportionate share of social costs; for helping to construct a pluralistic approach to unexpected events that makes transparent the tragic choices laying behind them; and for putting this approach to use in ways that mitigate social injustice.

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