This quote from Voltaire, “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong,” speaks to the risk and potential persecution faced by individuals who challenge established norms, beliefs, and power structures.
Voltaire, a leading figure of the French Enlightenment, was a strong advocate for freedom of thought and expression. He was critical of religious dogma, political corruption, and other forms of authority that, in his view, stifled independent thought and intellectual progress.
In contexts where the authorities are wrong, those who express dissenting or contrary views—despite being right—often face backlash. This backlash can take many forms, including social ostracization, legal punishment, or even physical violence. Authorities often have vested interests in maintaining the status quo, and they can perceive any challenge as a threat to their power and control.
Therefore, Voltaire’s quote underlines the courage it takes to stand up for truth and reason, especially when doing so might attract the ire of powerful entities or institutions. It also serves as a critique of societies and systems that punish free thought and suppress dissent.