The Last man; or the Last race (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 men are tired of life, take no risks, and seek only comfort and security.
The last man's primary appearance is in "Zarathustra's Prologue." According to Nietzsche, the last man is the goal that Modern society and Western civilization have 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. Zarathustra fails in this feat, and instead of repelling and manipulating the populace into taking the goal of the Übermensch; the populace contrast and take Zarathustra literally and mistakenly choose the "disgusting" goal of the Last men. This decision made by the populace later leaves orator Zarathustra disheartened and disappointed.
The lives of the last men are pacifist and comfortable. There is no longer a distinction between ruler and ruled, strong over weak, or supreme over the mediocre. 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.
Nietzsche warned that the society of the Last man could be too barren and decadent to support the growth of healthy human life or great individuals. The Last man is only possible by mankinds' having bred an apathetic person or ethnic group who are unable to dream; who is unwilling to take risks, and simply earn their living and keep warm. The society of the last man would go against Nietzsche's theoretical Will-to-Power, the main driving force and ambition behind human nature, according to Nietzsche; as well as all other thriving life, in the universe.
The last man, Nietzsche predicted, would be one response to the problem of nihilism. But the full implications of the death of God had yet to unfold: "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