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Jean-Jaques Rousseau wrote Discours sur les sciences et les arts. In the very first part, the third paragraph says the following:

Original (French)

L'esprit a ses besoins, ainsi que le corps. Ceux-ci sont les fondements de notre société, les autres en sont l'agrément. Tandis que le gouvernement et les lois pourvoient à la sureté et au bien-être des hommes assemblés, les sciences, les lettres et les arts, moins despotiques et plus puissants peut-être, étendent des guirlandes de fleurs sur les chaînes de fer dont ils sont chargés, étouffent en eux le sentiment de cette liberté originelle pour laquelle ils semblaient être nés, leur font aimer leur esclavage et en forment ce qu'on appelle des peuples policés.

English translation

The mind, as well as the body, has its needs: those of the body are the basis of society, those of the mind its ornaments. So long as government and law provide for the security and well-being of men in their common life, the arts, literature and the sciences, less despotic though perhaps more powerful, fling garlands of flowers over the chains which weigh them down. They stifle in men's breasts that sense of original liberty, for which they seem to have been born; cause them to love their own slavery, and so make of them what is called a civilised people.

Translated by G. D. H. Cole (1913). The Social Contract & Discourses, pp. 130–131. London: J. M. Dent.

Note: the last sentence does not seem well translated (at all). As a French native speaker, I would never think of translating policé to civilized.

Here is how I understand the above quote. The phrase "les chaînes de fer dont ils sont chargés" refers to the laws and government. Consequently, men have (voluntarily or not) put themselves in a position of enslavement and art, science (and more generally, culture?) is a way for them to make more pleasant their condition. Am I understanding this well?

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  • I took the liberty of replacing the Google Translate output with the G. D. H. Cole translation. Hope that's ok -- it has the same "civilised" choice that you asked about. Nov 14 at 16:09
  • Strange. The translation of the definition of "policé" is: Set of organs and institutions ensuring the maintenance of public order and the repression of offenses. Which is not "civilised" (from a french point of view). Nov 15 at 6:28
  • @GarethRees Why did you "lowered" the last name of the author ? In french, last names must be written in upper case. Nov 15 at 6:30

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