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Sometimes definitions reverse direction, like when in the American sensibility, hard work and thrift lead to success and wealth and yet somehow now the presumption is that wealth is the obvious sign of hard work and thrift.

in a theological sense, Christ is what defines the church in the abstract and yet in American evangelical culture, it seems as if the church has become to define what Christ means.

Is there a philosophical term, a linguistic term, or perhaps a theological term I've missed that encompasses this?

  • I see no reversal if thrift leads to wealth and wealth is a sign of thrift... – Davo Apr 12 '19 at 18:59
  • except that in the original "American Dream" model, success and wealth were the expected result of hard work and thrift; and in the modern media-world, success and wealth are seen as proofs of hard work and thrift. This violates the logical fallacy rule that correlation is causation. – Richard Carnahan May 20 at 6:46
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This is known as the (logical) fallacy of

affirming the consequent

or the 'converse error', which is the error that, given that B follows from A, one can infer that A follows from B. Surely if it rains then the ground will get wet. But if the ground is wet it does not necessarily follow that rain was the cause.

This is related to the general correlation fallacies including 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' (the fallacy of thinking that f B comes after A, then A caused B).

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I don't know if it's a cultural phenomenon, but it seems like the definitions in your example are subjective interpretations of the true definition. Perhaps "subjective(ly)" comes close to the meaning that you seek.

the word "Christ" is often subjectively defined. It takes on different meanings in every individual person's mind.

The presumption that "wealth is an obvious sign of hard work and thrift" is a subjective assumption at best. Wealth is not necessarily defined by those qualities.

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/subjectively

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