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what's the meaning of "discreet sanctuary of love" in this phrase

"If one does not wish biotechnology to interfere with questions which are situated within the discreet sanctuary of love, one must make this decision first and above all for oneself."

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  • To my understanding it may refer to human genetic manipulations, which contrast with natural evolution.
    – user66974
    Mar 14 '14 at 15:28
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It means that the writer was defeated by their own cleverness. The purpose of writing is so others will understand you.

That said:

They are referring to love as being a sacred subject that some would find distasteful for artificial biochemical manipulation to interfere with. By a discrete sanctuary they are saying that it is treated as a sacred realm that should only be entered with reverence.

This meaning is born out by the second part of the sentence which recommends making the decision of what you find acceptable before mucking about in such matters.

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A longer version of this assertion by Volker Gerhardt appears in Thomas Lemke, Monica Jasper, and Lisa Moore, Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction (2011), in a chapter called "Life as an Object of Politics":

Since biopolitics to a certain degree impinges upon our self-understanding as human beings, we must insist on its link to basic liberties and to human rights. And since it can have wide-ranging consequences for our individual self-understanding, it also makes demands on the individual conduct of our lives. If one does not wish biotechnology to interfere with questions which are situated within the discreet sanctuary of love, one must make this decision first and above all for oneself.

Lemke, Jasper, and Moore are critical of Gerhardt's "appeal" (as they call it), but regrettably they haven't included enough of Gerhardt's original discussion to give his views coherent expression. As a matter of meaning, the crucial problem here isn't with "the discreet sanctuary of love"—which presumably just means "matters involving a person's affections," which Gerhardt thinks ought to be inviolable.

Rather, the unexplained term in the supplied quotation is "this decision," which has no antecedent there, leaving us to speculate about whether the decision Gerhardt has in mind involves deciding to resist the intrusion of biotechnology into areas of personal privacy, deciding to insist on the link between biopolitics and "basic liberties and human rights" (whatever "insisting" on such a "link" means), or deciding something else.

Since Gerhardt writes in German (the quotation seems likely to have been drawn from Die angeborene Würde des Menschen: Aufsätze zur Biopolitik [The Innate Dignity of Man: Essays on Biopolitics]), there may be a problem with the translation of his original wording as well.

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