Yes. In a sense, my spending money on my mother's care is in conflict with that principle. But so is the fact that I flew back to Australia to visit my daughters at Christmas. That money could also be better spent elsewhere. I've never claimed that I live my life perfectly in accordance with those principles of sharing my money as much as I should.

What role do you see yourself playing in society?

I see the philosopher's role as one of challenging society to think clearly about some things it might take for granted. In that way, philosophers are gadflies. Like Socrates, they run the risk of being condemned for it. Their role is to get people to question things that they might not otherwise have questioned.

What changes do you hope to effect?

I would like to see concrete progress in the U.S. of the kind that is happening in Europe in terms of recognizing that farm animals ought not to be deprived of the ability to move around or stretch their limbs. In the area of bioethics, I would like to help develop alternative approaches to some of these end-of-life decisions. Generally, I would like to stimulate some reexamination of the idea of the sanctity of human life so that people are not locked into particular positions but can look at cases in a more flexible way that will lead to better outcomes.

Do you think religion affects people's ethical reasoning?

Religion has a major impact--basically in stopping people from thinking. This is not true of every religion--it's a generalization--but there are some religions, some ways of interpreting religions, that give you the sense that you know the answers. You've got them laid down as dogma or revelation or what your minister or priest or guru tells you, and you stop thinking. That's a bad thing.

Do you think your being an atheist affects your philosophy?

It probably does, although there are some theists who would reach the same conclusions. But it's certainly easier to reach them if you are not religious. And probably people who are strongly committed to the traditional religions like Christianity would not be likely to come up with the same views that I hold.