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." The last man is the goal that Western civilization has apparently set for itself. 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 lives of the last men are pacifist and comfortable. There is no longer a distinction between ruler and ruled, strong over weak, supreme over the mediocre, let alone political exploitation. Social conflict and challenges are minimized. Every individual lives equally and in "superficial" harmony. There are no original or flourishing social trends and ideas. Individuality and creativity are suppressed.
The society of the last man would go against the theoretical Will-to-Power, the main driving force and ambition behind human nature; as well as all other thriving life, in the universe. Nietzsche said that the society of the last man would be too barren and decadent 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. Alternatively, the last man could also be brought about by a league of strong individuals who somehow are coerced into corrupting their own power structure. 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