Constitution (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The fundamental law, written or unwritten, that establishes the character of a government by defining the basic principles to which a society must conform; by describing the organization of the government and regulation, distribution, and limitations on the functions of different government departments; and by prescribing the extent and manner of the exercise of its sovereign powers.
A legislative charter by which a government or group derives its authority to act.
The concept of a constitution dates to the city-states of ancient Greece. The philosopher ARISTOTLE (38422 B.C.), in his work Politics, analyzed over 150 Greek constitutions. He described a constitution as creating the frame upon which the government and laws of a society are built:
A constitution may be defined as an organization of offices in a state, by which the method of their distribution is fixed, the sovereign authority is determined, and the nature of the end to be pursued by the association and all its members is prescribed. Laws, as distinct from the frame of the constitution, are the rules by which the magistrates should exercise their powers, and should watch and check transgressors.
In modern Europe, written constitutions came into greater use during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Constitutions...
(The entire section is 1006 words.)
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Constitution (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Constitution is all the characteristics and tendencies, both somatic and psychic, that an individual brings into life at the time of birth. It is those parts of the individual that are innate, inherited, or genetically determined. Classically, it stands in opposition to all that is accidental, things acquired in the course of life. Certain doctrinal trends in the field of psycho-pathology rely on the notion of constitution in order to define personality types that are predisposed to specific psychiatric affections, particularly psychosis.
The notion of a constitutional factor is Freud's, and he elaborated the theory in two distinct periods. Before 1905, he conflated it with hereditary disposition, referring to a general and universal condition in the pathogenic determinism of all affections, particularly neurotic affections. In the etiology of these affections, the hereditary disposition is associated with specific causes of a sexual nature in accordance with the rules of a complemental series. Thus, "the same specific causes acting on a healthy individual produce no manifest pathological effect, whereas in a predisposed person their action causes the neurosis to come to light, whose development will be proportionate in intensity and extent to the degree of the hereditary precondition" (1896a, p. 147).
After 1905, the Freudian conception of constitution became inseparable from the sexual doctrine resulting from his identification of infantile sexuality in all human beings. In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), Freud traces the origin of infantile sexuality to component instincts that are perverse because they seek satisfaction independently of each other and thus define, for all individuals, a "polymorphously perverse disposition" (1905d, p. 191). "The conclusion now presents itself to us that there is indeed something innate lying behind the perversions but that it is something innate in everyone, though as a disposition it may vary in its intensity and may be increased by the influences of actual life" (1905d, p. 171). Sexual constitution thus came to replace general hereditary disposition.
In lecture twenty-three of Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1916-17a), entitled "The Paths to the Formation of Symptoms," Freud enriched the notion of sexual constitution with that of fixation of the libido. These fixations represent the individual's constitutional past toward which the libido regresses as a result of the repression imposed on it by the neurosis. According to Freud, these fixations are partly the traces of the phylogenetic heritage.
See also: Bisexuality; Character; Heredity of acquired characters; "Heredity and the Etiology of the Neuroses"; Instinct; Intergenerational; Phylogenesis; Prehistory; Primal fantasies; Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.
Freud, Sigmund. (1896a). Heredity and the aetiology of the neuroses. SE, 3: 141-156.
. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.
. (1906a). My views on the part played by sexuality in the aetiology of the neuroses. SE, 7: 269-279.
. (1916-17a). Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. Parts I & II. SE, 15-16.