The last man (German: der letzte Mensch) is a term used by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra to describe the antithesis of the imagined superior being, the Übermensch, whose imminent appearance is heralded by Zarathustra. The last man is tired of life, takes no risks, and seeks only comfort and security.
The last man's primary appearance is in "Zarathustra's Prologue." After having unsuccessfully attempted to get the populace to accept the Übermensch as the goal of society, Zarathustra confronts them with a goal so disgusting that he assumes that it will revolt them. The last man is the goal that European civilization has apparently set for itself. The lives of the last men are comfortable. There is no longer a distinction between ruler and ruled, let alone political exploitation. Social conflict is minimized.
Nietzsche said that the society of the last man would be too barren to support the growth of great individuals. The last man is possible only by mankind's having bred an apathetic creature who has no great passion or commitment, who is unable to dream, who merely earns his living and keeps warm. The last men claim to have discovered happiness, but blink every time they say so.
The last man, Nietzsche predicted, would be one response to nihilism. But the full implications of the death of God had yet to unfold. As he said, "the event itself is far too great, too distant, too remote from the multitude's capacity for comprehension even for the tidings of it to be thought of as having arrived as yet."
- Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Prologue, §5.
- Gay Science, §343