Emerson refers to the scholar as the "Man Thinking" as opposed to the bookworm. The Man Thinking derives his knowledge from robust engagement with many facets of life. These include a healthy interaction with nature, the practice of direct observation, and the acknowledgement of the experience of what is going on around him—as well as the constant inquiry into the promptings of his own soul. The act of reading is therefore only one part of a larger picture.
A bookworm, in contrast, finds his knowledge third-hand through books and borrows the wisdom of other people without questioning it or lining it up against his experience or conscience: in other words, without weighing its value against his own ideas. A bookworm's education is wholly derivative, and he does not learn to think for himself.
Emerson advises the red-blooded American scholar not to be like his effete European counterparts who is always looking to find guidance in books and tradition instead of experiencing life directly. Emerson states that the true scholar must live vigorously:
Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire. . . . The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul.