At first sight, caring for other people seems to be unambiguously good from a moral point of view. However, a closer look at professional care activities in various organizational contexts reveals a great deal of moral ambiguities and contradictions. In this doctoral dissertation, care-providing is approached from an activity theoretical viewpoint in which care-providing institutions are seen as activity systems, consisting of a community, with rules and division of labour, as well as subjects, instruments and objects of their activity. The activity theoretical approach is complemented by social psychological theories of intergroup infrahumanization, value structure and content, and cognitive-developmental theories of moral judgment.
One empirical study reported in this volume focuses on the moral arguments advanced by two central figures in the establishment, in 1918, of the institute for training social educators who were to serve as surrogate mothers for c. 25 000 Red orphans separated from their biological mothers after the civil war. One represented a nationalist heteronomous moral outlook, the other a universalistic autonomous morality.
The impact of lectures on activity theory on moral reasoning was examined in the study of social education students whose reports on their field work were analysed before and after the teaching. Learning to analyse the workplace as an activity system led to advances in moral judgment.
The complex moral conflicts faced by elderly care professionals were scrutinized in the third study. It illustrated the associations of values and moral reasoning structures with the types of dilemmas that the professionals reported from their workplaces. The severe ethical issues in concern of elderly care in Finland in recent years have increased urgency to consider ethical dilemmas in the professional ethics of the field, conceivably reflecting the reality of Finnish elderly care, one most urgent concerned elderly person´s dismissed selfdetermination and human rights in care institutions.